The week's best parenting advice: May 26, 2020

Jessica Hullinger
A family.
Illustrated | iStock
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1.

Why kids have a favorite parent

It's not uncommon for kids to have a favorite parent, explains Claire Gillespie at The Week. Often the preference can be attributed to differing parenting styles: One parent is more disciplinarian than the other, so the more lax parent becomes the favorite. Other times it's about exposure: Perhaps mom is home less, so time with her becomes a special scarcity. If parents are divorced, "the child sometimes favors the non-custodial parent simply because they don't see them as much," says board-certified child and adult psychiatrist Lea Lis, MD. If you're the favorite, try to hype up the other parent. "When your child hears from you how great their other parent is, they'll feel more inclined to spend time with them," Gillespie says. And if you're not the favorite, try not to take it personally, says psychotherapist Jaime Bronstein, LCSW. "Kids are human, and they have opinions and preferences. As long as you show your child that you love them unconditionally, you're doing a great job." [The Week]

2.

Wanna build a fort?

Clear the floor. Grab some cushions. Drape a blanket over the chairs. It's time to make a fort. "Kids are turning to fort-building to create safe havens as the COVID-19 world feels out of their control," writes Susan C. Margolin at The Washington Post. Children usually begin creating fort-like structures at the age of 4, and there are lots of benefits: Forts offer a creative outlet, nurture a sense of autonomy and control, and can even help calm kids' nerves. "It's all about safety and control," says Carol Stock Kranowitz, educator and author of The Out-of-Sync-Child. "We seek out comfort. We need to restore order. And in COVID, we're doing more of these things." What makes a good fort? They're homemade, often shrouded in secrecy (usually you can see out, but nobody can see in), and most importantly, they make the fort dweller feel safe. There's only one rule for parents, and it's important, says child psychologist Emily King: "Don't mess with their fort." [The Washington Post]

3.

The benefits of pandemic journaling

A high school history teacher from California has found a way to help his students continue developing "historical thinking skills" even during the pandemic lockdown. He told them to keep a pandemic journal in which they chronicle "changes in the community, country, and world in response to the spread of coronavirus," reports Kara Newhouse at KQED. At first, the students' entries focused mostly on their own lives and immediate concerns, but over time, they began to think bigger. They pondered the "causes and consequences of politicians' decisions and analyzed their personal experiences as part of socio-political systems," Newhouse says. Such journals can also encourage problem solving skills, and provide a sort of "mental health check-in" during a challenging time. "Journaling is generative," Newhouse says. "Rather than demanding specific answers, it draws out students' ideas." If you want your kids to make a pandemic journal, the assignment is available online here. [KQED, UC Berkeley]

4.

Liar, liar, pants on fire

Catching your kid in a lie can be frustrating. But lying can actually be a sign of healthy development in young children. "They'll experiment with different communication styles and techniques until they find the ones that work best for them," child and teen psychiatrist Gayani DeSilva, MD, tells The Week. "Lying is one of those techniques." The habit usually starts to peter out by age 8. But just because lying is, in most cases, normal, doesn't mean it should be ignored. "Look at them directly and ask, 'What do you need?'" Dr. DeSilva suggests. "After they tell you, gently remind them that telling you directly will be more effective than lying." And pay close attention to the motivation behind a lie, which can reveal a lot. For example, while a child might lie about completing their homework in order to keep playing video games, they also might be trying to avoid negative feelings and anxieties associated with school work, says therapist Gideon Javna, LCSW. [The Week]

5.

What college looks like now

At least one university is offering a glimpse into what college education will look like this fall. Mitch Daniels, president of Purdue University in Indiana, outlined his school's plan for reopening in The Washington Post, saying not opening would be a "gross disservice to [students] and a default of our responsibility." But things will be remarkably different this year at the Big Ten school. Daniels says one-third of staff will work from home to make campus less densely populated. Seven-hundred classrooms and 9,500 dorm rooms are being redesigned to facilitate social distancing; some buildings will apparently get ventilation upgrades and see plexiglass barriers installed. "All large-enrollment courses will be offered online as well as in person," Daniels writes. Students will receive masks and a thermometer upon arrival. Daniels says a testing and contract tracing system will be deployed, though he doesn't specify how or when. And large events "that ordinarily enliven campus life" will be absent. "It will be a quieter fall without fraternity parties," Daniels says, "but first things first." [The Washington Post]