The week's best parenting advice: April 7, 2020
Postpartum COVID-19 questions, the case for 'good enough' homeschooling, and more
Postpartum and the pandemic
A new report from The Cut finds that "hospitals around the country have been separating newborns from postpartum patients who are suspected of having COVID-19." While children appear less likely to develop severe symptoms from the virus, one study suggested very young babies were more at risk. What, exactly, are the recommendations for new mothers? "Health experts have not yet reached a consensus," writes Christina Caron at NYT Parenting. The WHO says there's no need for separation so long as there's proper hygiene, while the CDC suggests hospitals "consider" putting mother and baby in separate rooms. What about breastfeeding? There's little evidence the virus can be transmitted through milk, but research is ongoing. However, "if a mom is infected, the hope is that she is producing antibodies to COVID-19 that are present in her breast milk," says Christina Chambers, Ph.D., co-director of the Center for Better Beginnings at U.C. San Diego. This "could be a tremendous benefit to the child."
You're a parent, not a teacher
It's a stressful time for lots of parents who are getting an unexpected crash course in homeschooling techniques. Claire Gillespie at The Week has a liberating idea: Just be "good enough." Keep a rough schedule, incorporate learning into family time, and try to enjoy spending time with your kids. But don't stress too much trying to transform yourself into a teacher overnight. After all, "stressed out, overwhelmed parents don't teach well and stressed out, overwhelmed kids don't learn well," Cindy Hemming, an elementary school teacher from Toronto, told Gillespie. But there's one thing every homeschooling household should invest in: a timer. "When your child needs to work on school assignments, set a timer for an amount of time that is reasonable for your child and will increase their chances of success, which may only be a few minutes for some learners," explains Fit Learning Founder Kimberly Berens, Ph.D.
Lessons in adulting
Just because teenagers aren't going to school every day doesn't mean they have to stop learning. Stephanie Thurrott at TODAY says this is a perfect opportunity for kids to acquire some very important adulting skills that they probably wouldn't pick up in the classroom. For example, how to manage money, file taxes, and handle minor household problems. "Do they know how to check for a flipped circuit breaker? Turn off the water main? Find and use a fire extinguisher? … Take a walk though your home and point out where these things are and how to use them." Another key life skill? Family food prep. "Encourage them to factor in nutrition, and to learn how to store and use leftovers," Thurrott says. And even if the lesson doesn't stick, at least overworked parents will get a meal or two out of it.
S is for self-care
There's been a lot of talk about the importance of "self-care" during the pandemic. But worn-out parents of babies and toddlers know little ones don't care if you're tired — they need your attention right now. The folks behind Sesame Street have a low-effort trick to help you get a few moments of peace. All you need is a glass of water. "Let your child know, 'I'm just going to sit and (read/think/breathe) while I drink this glass of water,'" a handy Sesame Workshop document suggests. "Explain that you'll be available once the glass is empty." Because children struggle to keep track of time, "this is a concrete way to help them understand that you are taking a few minutes to yourself."
The couple that quarantines together
Being stuck in quarantine with your kids and your partner can put a new kind of strain on your relationship, but try to focus on the good stuff, suggest John Tierney and Roy F. Baumeister at The Atlantic. They admit this "takes some creativity in quarantine," but start with living in the happy memories of the past, like vacations and special celebrations. Researchers say this kind of "nostalgizing" can boost our mood in the present and make us feel better about the future. So dig out old photos and videos you haven't had time to look at lately. Other tips? Make a list of your partner's best traits; pause before assigning blame during arguments; and try to overlook the small transgressions. Tierney and Baumeister recommend heeding advice from Ruth Bader Ginsburg: "In every good marriage, it helps sometimes to be a little deaf."