The week's best parenting advice: April 28, 2020
A vaccination crisis, co-parenting during coronavirus, and more
Don't avoid the doctor
One troubling side effect of the coronavirus pandemic has been a drop in childhood vaccination rates in America, as concerned parents skip their kids' regular doctor visits. Measles, mumps, and rubella vaccinations dropped 50 percent from Feb. 16 to April 5, diphtheria and whooping cough shots fell 42 percent, and HPV vaccines plunged 73 percent, The New York Times reports. Experts say this is extremely dangerous. "Disrupting immunization schedules, even for brief periods, can lead to outbreaks of infections like measles or whooping cough that can be even more threatening to a child's health," write Dr. Sara "Sally" Goza and Dr. Patrice Harris at USA Today. They also urge parents to keep up with their regular well-child visits. "Especially during such an uncertain and stressful time for children, we use these visits to check in on their mental health, too."
Co-parenting during coronavirus
Can parents share custody during a pandemic? As Claire Gillespie writes for The Week, she grappled with this question, but ultimately decided to stick to the existing co-parenting arrangement she has with her kids' father. It turns out many experts would support this move. "Keeping your parenting schedule at this time is critical," says licensed clinical psychologist and parenting evaluator Melanie English, Ph.D. "Children need the consistency and that will help them feel like part of their world is still safe and in control." Young kids might also be confused and hurt if they suddenly can't see one of their parents for an extended amount of time. Gillespie's children spend four nights with her and three with their father, and are vigilant about social distancing and hygiene. If anyone were to get sick, they'd isolate for at least 14 days. "Basically, we're following the rules while still letting our kids spend their usual amount of time with both parents," she says.
Do siblings make kids happier?
The pandemic "may bring into focus a question many parents (or expectant parents) ask: What is the right number of kids for my family?" says economics professor and author Emily Oster at NYT Parenting. "Quarantine or not, having siblings shapes one's experiences and development. On balance, is this for good or for ill?" Society has long grappled with this question, and everyone seems to have an opinion. Oster cut through the anecdotal information and examined the data. She concludes that "siblings do not have a large impact on most characteristics we can measure." Things like educational attainment, I.Q., employment, or earnings are not affected by family size. Neither are personality traits, like extroversion. "Although you might expect a built-in playmate makes a kid more social, the data doesn't bear that out," she says.
Little green thumbs
Spring is the season for gardening, and as it turns out, gardening is really good for children. Lucy Jones, author of Losing Eden: Why Our Minds Need the Wild, says "spending time with nature can affect our emotional and psychological lives. The nervous system is more balanced in natural spaces. We're more likely to recover from stress in nature." Sounds perfect for these stressful times. You don't need a huge yard to start a garden — a terrace or even a planter in a window will work. Just be sure to give your child a little area they can tend to and manage. "If they've got their own area they care about it a lot more," gardener and author Lee Connelly tells Good Housekeeping. As for what to plant, Ben Raskin, head of horticulture at the Soil Association, says broad beans, peas, and runner beans are "pretty bomb proof."
Give gaming some credit
Can digital games teach kids "kindness, community, and well-being"? They're surely no substitute for real-life interaction, but as the coronavirus crisis continues and many children remain separated from their peers, games might help them "draw comfort from bridging distance through online collaboration, traveling the virtual world, sharing struggles, or getting a daily fitness fix, all without having to step outside," writes Paul Darvasi at KQED's Mind/Shift. For example, in a game called Kind Words, the "core mechanic is meaningful human contact," Darvasi says. Another game, called GeoGuesser, "lets us explore the world from the comfort of home." It might go against all your parenting instincts to encourage your kid's gaming habit, but right now, games are "meaningfully connecting people far and wide through designed experiences, and offering a refuge from our refuge," Darvasi says.