The week's best parenting advice: July 21, 2020

Jessica Hullinger
School and home.
Illustrated | iStock
Our parenting newsletter is a weekly roundup of the best parenting insights from scientists and family experts. To receive the newsletter every week, please enter your email below:

1.

Some schools should open. Some kids should go.

As coronavirus cases continue to climb in the U.S., the question of whether or not schools should open in the fall presents an "absolute disaster of epic proportions with no good answers, no clear sides, and no room for either/or thinking," says Shayla R. Griffin, Ph.D., MSW, author of Those Kids, Our Schools & Race Dialogues. She says that instead of either/or thinking, we should try a both/and solution. Some schools should open. Some students should go. More specifically, schools should open full-time only for the students most at the margins, "who are at greatest risk if school buildings remain closed, who cannot meet their basic needs without them." Everybody else should stay home "so that there is some hope of educating those who truly cannot stay home safely." While this plan will be hard for everyone, Griffin says, "unlike many of the other proposals I've seen, at least this response will be both hard and just." [Shayla Griffin]

2.

No tickling, please

"The case against tickling is a strong one," writes Jenny Marder at NYT Parenting. Just because kids are laughing when being tickled doesn't mean they enjoy it. In fact, reflexive laughter can disguise discomfort, says Lawrence Cohen, Ph.D., author of the book Playful Parenting. So what are the rules? Carers should be "extremely attentive" to their children's cues, because "when we tickle children without their buy-in, we're teaching them that it's okay to be touched and to touch others in ways they don't like," Marder says. If their face turns from a smile to a grimace, it's likely the tickling is unwanted and it's time to stop. Consider other activities, like pillow fights or wrestling. But remember: "If one person is stronger and more confident, and they're the ones always in control, then you're crossing the line from healthy roughhousing to overpowering," says Cohen. [NYT Parenting]

3.

The truth about penicillin allergies

A surprising number of suspected pediatric penicillin allergies might not actually be allergies at all, writes Meghan Moravcik Walbert at Lifehacker. Often doctors will see a delayed symptom after a penicillin dose, such as a rash or a stomach ache, and chalk it up to a bad reaction to the antibiotic. But Moravcik Walbert spoke with pediatricians and reports that, while severe penicillin allergies do exist, they're rare, and "those reactions are generally more severe and happen soon after the dose is administered — within minutes to a few hours." Of course, there are other antibiotics out there. Why not just play it safe and try a different drug? Because these drugs might be less effective than penicillin at treating infection, and their use may lead to antibiotic resistance. So don't assume. Instead, Moravcik Walbert writes, parents should "ask their child's pediatrician for in-office testing or for a referral to a pediatric allergist for testing." [Lifehacker]

4.

The trouble with teens

Teenagers face unique challenges during the coronavirus pandemic, writes psychologist Doreen Dodgen-Magee at Psychology Today. Adolescents are desperate to be close to their peers, and these social connections are good for their mental health. But they also need to adhere to social distancing guidelines to help curb the pandemic. So are teens doomed to a summer without their friends? Not necessarily. If you're considering a social gathering for your kids, Dodgen-Magee suggests weighing six risk factors: ventilation, number of attendees, whether or not masks will be worn or objects will be shared, and the chances all attendees will comply with distancing guidelines. Of course, "outdoor gatherings, with small numbers of people, wearing masks, and not sharing any objects are safest," Dodgen-Magee says. But come up with a family contingency plan in case you end up inside, or someone removes a mask. "Making, and agreeing on, the plans ahead of time help prevent 'during event' stress and mishaps," she says. [Psychology Today]

5.

Leave the cart

The term "overparenting" can mean different things to different people, but for Meghan Leahy, it's about trying to exert an unreasonable amount of control over her kids. Leahy, author of Parenting Outside the Lines: Forget the Rules, Tap into Your Wisdom and Connect with Your Child, recalls dragging her tired 2-year-old on a last-minute grocery run. "I was going to get the food, and she would just have to deal and learn," Leahy writes. But instead, her daughter's meltdown forced her to abandon her cart in the middle of the store and go home. "There was no reason to continue shopping in that kind of misery," Leahy writes. The "leaving the cart" incident taught her to "work with my child" instead of against her. And it reminded her not to adhere to "untenable" parenting standards. "Unless death and/or severe damage to body or home is imminent, you have wiggle room in every parenting decision in your life." [The Washington Post]