Parenting advice

The week's best parenting advice: June 9, 2020

How to raise anti-racist kids, coronavirus "pods" explained, and more


'Don't make black a dirty word'

White parents must do better to raise anti-racist kids, says Claire Gillespie at The Week. And the sooner they talk to their kids about racism, the better. "Research shows that by 5 years old, children already show many of the same racial attitudes held by parents," says writer and anti-racism educator Holiday Phillips. She suggests explaining to children that there are many different skin colors, and that people are sometimes — wrongfully — treated unfairly because of the color of their skin. "Don't make black a dirty word, it's not," Phillips says. "Navigate conversations with patience and compassion to help them reach understanding not censorship. So much white silence on issues of race comes not from lack of caring, but fear of saying the wrong thing. This serves no one." Books about race can help, but it's also "important to have books that have characters of color and yet aren't about race," says Lori Taliaferro Riddick from Raising Race-Conscious Children. Here's a helpful list of reading resources.


What's a coronavirus family 'pod'?

As families search for ways to stay sane while the pandemic keeps schools and camps closed, some are considering quarantine "pods" in which several families expand their lockdown social bubble to include one another but no one else, writes Melinda Wenner Moyer at NYT Parenting. "In a pod, families hang out together, often without regard to social distancing — but outside of the pod, they follow recommended social distancing rules," Wenner Moyer explains. Some experts say this is a good way to improve our mental health while also curbing the virus' spread. But it has to be done safely. Pods of two families are best, with no more than 10 people total. "Every additional person you add adds in more risk for everybody else in the group," says Zoe McLaren, Ph.D, a health policy researcher in the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Choose families you trust, that are being safe about coronavirus precautions, and have low risk of complications.


Let them play

"These past few months have shown how rapidly our world can change and how valuable resilience and confidence continue to be," writes Esben Stærk at Scientific American. Indeed, but how do we foster resilience in kids? Stærk points to learning through play, which research shows helps build all kinds of skills: social, emotional, physical, and cognitive. Learning through play isn't the same as free play, he says. It involves connecting stuff in the real world to complex concepts, and it can be done at home during lockdown. One simple suggestion: Try making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. "Have your child tell you how to make this iconic dish, but only do it exactly as they instruct you," Stærk says. "This is the same way your child would program a robot to complete a task. You'll both get a laugh when the direction isn't discrete and you smear jelly on the table, not the bread. The more children experience these small failures, through trial and error, and eventually succeed, the more they develop the elasticity to bounce back."


Move over, YouTube

The good news: A new study suggests kids are spending slightly less time on YouTube than they were a year ago. The bad news: The decline "could be due to the growing number of daily minutes kids spend on TikTok," writes Sarah Perez at Techcrunch. The study, from digital safety app maker Qustodio, found American kids ages 4 to 15 are spending 86 minutes a day on YouTube (down from 88 minutes last year), and 82 minutes on TikTok, the short-form video app. "Screen-time rates were already increasing," Qustodio's report says, "COVID-19 just accelerated the process." If TikTok has you worried, Perez notes the app offers parental controls called "Family Safety Mode" that allow parents to limit things like messaging, screentime, and inappropriate content. Or, if you're looking for an alternative, an educational app called Zigazoo launched earlier this month claiming to be "TikTok for kids." Zigazoo targets kids up to middle-school age and is partnering with The American Federation of Teachers.


Oh fudge

What's the right way to respond when a child curses? One option is to just ignore the outburst, but this only works if done consistently. "If you ... wait him out and never so much as let the corners of your mouth twitch, he'll eventually let it go," says Nicole Cliffe at Slate's Care and Feeding column. At the New Yorker, Rumaan Alam shares anecdotal reports that kids are simply swearing more during quarantine. "Swearing contains more than just their frustration; it's an assertion of their nascent independence, which has been so disrupted," Alam writes. His approach? Allow it — but in moderation. The occasional outburst in a moment of frustration is okay, but directing hateful language at other people is not. "I like to think this grants the kids a kind of agency. It serves as recognition that they, too, are people, with feelings they need to express. ... In the scheme of a global pandemic, do a few inelegant words matter?"


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