The week's best parenting advice: August 4, 2020
The lingering dangers of lead, helpful homeschooling tips, and more
A shocking statistic
A devastating new report from UNICEF and the nonprofit group Pure Earth finds that roughly one in three kids across the globe have been exposed to high levels of lead. Lead exposure is dangerous for everyone, but especially kids under the age of 5, "whose bodies absorb lead much more efficiently than adults and are at greatest risk of suffering lifelong physical and cognitive damage," Maria Godoy reports for NPR. While the U.S. has made progress in reducing sources of lead exposure over the years, it's still important for parents to be vigilant. The Mayo Clinic recommends regular washing of hands and toys, removing household dust, and, if you're concerned about lead in the soil, building a sandbox for your kids to play in, instead. Avoid using hot tap water for cooking if you have lead pipes or fittings. And make sure kids get lots of healthy food, especially iron, vitamin C, and calcium to "help keep lead from being absorbed."
Tips from a seasoned homeschooler
If you're staring down a semester of homeschooling thanks to the pandemic, mother of three Aila Malik has some practical tips from her year spent homeschooling her own kids on the road. Setting goals and creating a schedule are all important, she says at Mothermag, but so are flexibility and autonomy. Malik recommends building choice into your kids' schedules "to activate their voice and ownership." Her kids get to choose which chores they want to do, what snacks to eat, and when they want to do certain activities. And while you might not have signed up to be your kids' teacher, one upside is "you will quickly understand what they are learning," she writes. This means you can build learning into your daily activities. "For example, a child learning about fractions could refresh their memory when handing out slices of pizza to the family at dinner, or halving a recipe and baking dessert!" Her final tip probably sounds familiar at this point, but it's worth repeating: "Be gentle with yourself."
Can teenagers be selfless?
Teens are naturally inclined to break the rules and assert their individuality, writes Claire Gillespie at The Week. So how can parents convince their teenagers that coronavirus is serious? Try appealing to their sense of the greater good. "Social research tells us that although we may think of teens as being more self-absorbed than adults, they can often demonstrate empathy in a willingness to change their behavior for the betterment of the community," says Carol Winner, MPH, public health expert and founder of social distancing brand Give Space. Regular reminders that the sooner the virus is controlled, the sooner their freedoms will return could also help get the message across. And if that fails, remember to keep your messaging really simple. Try something like: "We want you to wear a mask at all times when you're in public." "Unless they get clear messages about how to be safe, they will take risks and shun some good advice," says child and adolescent psychiatrist and author Gayani DeSilva, MD.
Why you should 'diversify your toy box'
"Imagine how children's views of themselves and others could change by having dolls of diverse races and ethnicities, not just white Barbies and G.I. Joes," writes Shanicia Boswell at NYT Parenting. Indeed, kids become aware of racial differences around age 3, and they use play to learn about social relationships. What are some ways to "diversify the toy box," as Boswell puts it? Yes, incorporate Black and other non-white dolls and toys. But also introduce diversity at the drawing table by showing kids works "from artists with backgrounds different from their own," Boswell writes. And don't forget about music. "Spin a globe, pick a location and look up children's music for that particular region," she says. "If you can, carve out 20 minutes of dance each day with your children and discuss what you like about the music you are dancing to."
The old 'magic soap' trick
Parents live in fear of the day their child's favorite comfort object — be it a blanket, a teddy bear, or a another toy — goes missing, writes Meghan Moravcik Walbert at Lifehacker. Some parents even keep a spare just in case. But kids are smart. They know what the real teddy looks like, and usually won't settle for snuggling with some fuzzy stranger. But Moravcik Walbert stumbled upon a genius idea: Tell your child you've added "magic soap" to the washer, which makes old toys seem like new. "Most toddlers or preschoolers will be so relieved to see Duck-Duck return that they'll embrace this explanation with ease," she writes. "If you think your child will want to test that theory on every ragged stuffed toy they own, however, you'll need to explain the magic only works on the most special, most beloved toys that get lost and find their way back home."