The week's best parenting advice: June 23, 2020
How lockdown affects kids' immunity, tips for talking about consent, and more
Is lockdown bad for kids' immune systems?
With many schools and daycares still closed, parents have no doubt noticed their small children have been picking up fewer colds and tummy bugs. This sounds great, but is there a downside? "In missing out on exposure to other children during daycare or play dates," asks Claire Gillespie at The Week, "are they also missing out on exposure to some pretty crucial immunity-boosting germs?" Maybe, but there's a relatively easy solution: Go outside. "There is good evidence now that kids with more exposure to nature (i.e. green environments) have less chronic disease," says pediatric rheumatologist J. Patrick Whelan, Ph.D. "Outdoor play in a garden or yard setting ... exposes kids to a healthy group of microbes that protect against allergies, without increasing the frequency or severity of childhood illnesses." Whelan adds that kids' immunity is better served by exposure to healthy mom microbes through breastfeeding, diets with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, and fermented foods like yogurt.
How to teach kids about consent
What's the best way to teach children about the importance of consent? Start by demonstrating it. "Normalize asking children for consent to touch them," Tlamelo Setshwaelo, a doctor in Botswana, writes in a tweet. "Whether it is a hug, a kiss, an arm rub. Ask for consent. Teach them from a young age that they have autonomy over their personal space and they have a right to be upset if it is violated." Bonnie J. Rough, the author of Beyond Birds and Bees: Bringing Home a New Message to Our Kids About Sex, Love, and Equality, agrees. "As adults, we can model the importance of consent when children want to climb on us by reminding them to ask first," Rough writes, adding that if a child is reluctant to show physical affection, parents should suggest a contact-free alternative, like a wave. "Teaching consent has a protective effect against child sexual abuse by showing children that they can trust their instincts," Rough says.
To grandmother's house we go
The coronavirus pandemic has prevented many grandparents from meeting their new grandchildren, and for good reason: While the data suggests newborns and new parents aren't at high risk of COVID-19 complications, grandparents are. But as restrictions loosen, "there are steps we can take to minimize risks," writes Aaron E. Carroll at The New York Times. Before any meeting, both the new parents and the grandparents should self-isolate for two weeks to minimize infection risk. If you're traveling to see one another, limit stops along the way. Keep the group small, and make sure everyone washes their hands, and no one has any symptoms. If all of these precautions are in place, "it's likely even safe for grandparents to hold a newborn," Carroll says. Of course, it's a risk, "but we're all going to have to start making these tough decisions based on our own risk tolerance and circumstances and priorities," epidemiologist Caitlin Rivers adds.
The ABC Paint Match game
Few parents would ever actively encourage their child to draw on the walls of the family home, but Susie Allison at Busy Toddler has a project that lets them do just that while also improving their literacy. For the ABC Paint Match game, as she calls it, Allison taped a large sheet of kraft paper to the wall and wrote the alphabet in bubble letters that her toddler could fill in with (washable!) paint. Then she added another element: "I took out our alphabet magnets and put them in a bowl. I told my son to pull out one letter at a time and paint that letter. … He needed to match the letters in two different forms. This just went from an art activity to an art and literacy activity." This kind of play-based learning in early years has many benefits. It can "enhance children's mastery of academic concepts and build motivation to learn," according to UNICEF.
Movies under the stars
The coronavirus has made it much harder to enjoy a movie in a traditional theater this summer. But "among the more surprising consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic: renewed affection for parking lots with movie screens," writes William Sertl at The Wall Street Journal. Indeed, the drive-in theater is having a moment, and parents would be wise to take advantage of it. At the drive-in, kids can enjoy a movie under the stars, without having to worry about masking or social distancing. And they'll probably remember the experience for a long time. "When I was a kid in 1950s St. Louis, going to the drive-in was a family ritual," Sertl writes. "For me, the real treat was falling asleep in the rear-window cubbyhole of our Studebaker Starlight Coupe — an only-child's dream of movies and popcorn with a wraparound glass cradle." He has a great list of drive-in theaters across the country here.