The week's best parenting advice: July 7, 2020

Jessica Hullinger
Illustrated | iStock
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Weighing the risks

How the heck are parents supposed to enforce social distancing rules with their young children? That's a good question, posed by Melissa Mills at, who says moms and dads are weighing the risks of coronavirus infection with those of traumatizing social interactions. "Do we continue to enforce strict rules to keep our kids safe, or do we worry more about the effects isolation might have on our children and let them socialize, even if that means they're going to be in close contact with others?" she asks. The virus is still circulating and it's still dangerous, so experts say it's best to keep emphasizing social distancing. "Reward your little ones for good behavior, including complying with social distancing rules," says pediatrician Chaniece Wallace. "Give them verbal praise, a gold star, or even an extra book at bedtime." Another doctor, pediatrician Snehal Doshi, suggests utilizing toys like hula hoops and pool noodles to teach kids to keep their distance "while making it fun at the same time." []


Embracing the virtual sleepover

It's probably not safe for kids to host or attend sleepovers with their friends right now, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, but one dad named Andrew tells Lifehacker he's found a temporary workaround for his daughter: video sleepovers. "On Friday [or Saturday] evenings, she can arrange a video chat 'sleepover' with a friend, where she's allowed to stay up as late as she wants to chat / play / make art with a friend since she can't do those things in person," he says. Lifehacker's Meghan Moravcik Walbert applauds the idea, and suggests some ways to make it even more special, including setting up a tent and coordinating with other parents so the kids can eat the same dinner and snacks together. "Implement as few rules as possible and let them stay up as late as they want," she says. "They'll be tired tomorrow, but they don't have anywhere to be anyway." [Lifehacker]


Can we talk?

Dinner time is often a convenient moment to have a serious conversation with your kids. But Tania Lorena Rivera makes a compelling case for choosing a different time and place for such chats, recalling the many times in her childhood when family meals were "as bitter and unpleasant" as they were enjoyable. Often the room would be filled with tension, she writes at Motherwell, because she was bracing "for serious talks, for big news, for sermons and decision making." It ruined the meals, turning a joyous occasion into a dreaded one. Now a mother of three, Lorena Rivera says her kids don't even have to speak to her or her husband at meal times, because she wants them to be able to unwind. "Dinnertime should not be the place for reprimands and loaded speeches or big news," she says. "It should be a time dedicated only to the consumption of good food and a happy, light time with your family." [Motherwell]


Nobody's perfect

We usually think of perfectionism as an adult trait, but many kids also suffer while striving to be perfect, reports Jessica Grose at NYT Parenting. Gordon Flett, Ph.D, the director of the LaMarsh Centre for Child and Youth Research at York University, says some kids can show perfectionist tendencies as young as age 3. "If left unchecked, perfectionism is a risk factor for clinical depression and anxiety," Grose writes. What can parents do? First, know the signs, such as excessive self-deprecation, trouble getting over failure, avoiding trying new things, and an inability to celebrate accomplishments. Marisa Porges, author of the forthcoming book What Girls Need: How to Raise Bold, Courageous, and Resilient Women, suggests sharing a memory with your child of a time when you weren't perfect, perhaps when you made a mistake but then overcame it. "It's about being vulnerable with our kids in ways we don't typically think to be," Porges says. [NYT Parenting]


Go on, get a dog

If you've been thinking about getting a family dog to help entertain your bored children, a new study could be just the nudge you need. The study, published in the journal Pediatric Research, concluded that dog ownership may help preschool-age kids develop their social and emotional skills. "Toddlers from dog-owning families who participated in the study were 30 percent less likely to have conduct and peer problems in comparison to preschoolers from families who didn't own dogs," CNN explains. The researchers chalk this up to the physical exercise that often comes with walking and playing with dogs, saying that "even a small to moderate commitment to involving preschoolers in time spent walking with the family dog may provide important social and emotional benefits for young children." But CNN notes that previous research has also linked dog ownership to increased empathy, something we could all use a bit more of these days. [CNN, Nature]