The week's best parenting advice: June 2, 2020
How to talk to kids about racial violence, encouraging new data from reopened schools, and more
How to talk to kids about racial violence
Talking to children about racism and the ongoing protests against police brutality in America is "essential," child psychology experts tell USA Today. "Avoiding the topic is not a solution," says psychologist and author Beverly Daniel Tatum. Be honest about what's happening, using age-appropriate language, and "let children know that some police officers break laws," adds Erlanger Turner, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor of psychology at Pepperdine University. Showing children distressing videos of police brutality could cause trauma. Instead "describe what happened and talk about why it was wrong," says Daniel Tatum. If there's a police officer you know and trust, introducing them to your child in person could help reduce fear. White parents shouldn't encourage "color blindness" or "not seeing color," Daniel Tatum says, because this "does not honor an individual's identity." Instead, "conversations should focus on raising anti-racist children and encouraging more friendships with children from other races." Most importantly, parents have to model anti-racist behavior themselves.
Back to school?
Will it be safe to send kids back to school in September despite the coronavirus pandemic? Data from countries that have already reopened their schools suggests the answer is yes. "Denmark, Austria, Norway, Finland, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and most other countries that have reopened classrooms haven't had outbreaks in schools or day-care centers," The Wall Street Journal reports. How children are affected by the virus remains one of "the most discussed riddles of the epidemic among scientists," the Journal notes. But the absence of new infection clusters in elementary schools suggest "the children aren't that important for the spread of infection," says Tyra Grove Krause, a senior official with Denmark's disease control agency. Experts caution that their advice could change when cold weather sets in, and note there's a higher risk for teenagers than for younger children.
The death trap in the backyard
"With so many families sheltering in place and parents juggling work and child-care responsibilities, drowning is probably low on the list of concerns," writes Lisa L. Lewis at The New York Times. But experts are worried that this summer will see an unusual increase in swimming accidents. Children can drown in as little as one minute, so if parents are distracted or overwhelmed, water injuries become more likely. To keep things as safe as possible, parents should install barriers around pools and empty smaller pools after use. Dr. Sarah Denny, M.D., an associate clinical professor of pediatrics at Nationwide Children's Hospital recommends against relying on flotation tools like water wings, which could slide off. Parents should be trained in CPR and always supervise while their children are swimming. "Passive supervision, such as being nearby and listening, or even being physically present but working or scrolling on your phone, isn't enough," Lewis says.
Math as neighborhood art
San Diego-based teacher Traci Jackson has been decorating her neighborhood's sidewalks with chalk-drawn math problems to put a fun new spin on the much-loathed school subject. "The perception of math is a set of sterile problems but in reality it describes all the patterns of our world," Jackson tells KQED. "[Sidewalk math] opens the conversation to what math is. It engages people who wouldn't do math ordinarily." Her creations are more like works of art than the math problems you'd see on a worksheet — many feature shape-based puzzles in vibrant colors. Experts say people engage differently with publicly-posted math problems. "Instead of feeling pressured to get the right answer quickly," KQED says, passersby can linger on the problem, leave it, come back to it, and even involve family and friends. Changing the environment of math changes how people respond to it, Jackson tells KQED. If you want to try your hand at one of her problems, you can do so here.
Our resilient kids
Will the pandemic have a long-term affect on kids' mental health? There's no doubt childhood will look different in a post-COVID world. Schools will likely require social distancing and mask-wearing, and digital learning may remain a key pillar of education, even after schools are back in session. But board certified psychiatrist Dr. Margaret Seide tells The Week that parents should take comfort in knowing that generally, children deal well with change. "Their lives are constantly evolving," Seide says. "The daily routine and privileges allowed to an 8-year-old may be dramatically different from that of a 10-year-old and school may be different from year to year. Due to that, children tend to be quite adaptive and ready to go with the flow." Plus, kids often have a lot of trust in the adults around them, which means they'll follow mom and dad's leads in abiding by the new guidelines. "They are not stuck in their ways or attached to any particular routine the way adults are," Seide says. "Children absolutely have an advantage over adults in that respect."