Parenting advice

The week's best parenting advice: September 15, 2020

COVID's toll on America's kids, how parents can curb cyberbullying, and more


Half a million kids

The number of children who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the United States has surpassed half a million, according to a report from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association. The report says that 103 children have died due to the illness, and cases among children represent almost 10 percent of the cases in the U.S. The largest increases in child cases were in Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota, NBC News reports. "These numbers are a chilling reminder of why we need to take this virus seriously," American Academy of Pediatrics President Dr. Sally Goza says. While "severe illness" from COVID-19 appears to be "rare" among children, the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Infectious Diseases vice-chair Sean O'Leary explained to The Wall Street Journal that "we also need to understand whether there are potentially consequences of long-term effects."


Can parents prevent cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is a huge problem: According to New York University, more than half of U.S. teens report having experience with being harassed online. But a new study sheds light on how parents can help. Research from NYU published in the International Journal of Bullying Prevention finds that pre-teens and teens who perceive their parents to be loving and supportive are less likely to cyberbully. "I would stress to parents it is not necessarily if they think they are being supportive, but what their adolescent thinks," says Laura Grunin, the study's lead author. In other words, parents should ask or learn what their kid needs to feel emotionally supported, and strive to do that. "While our study doesn't prove that a lack of parental support directly causes cyberbullying," Grunin says, "it does suggest that children's relationships with their parents might influence their bullying behaviors."


Did I say that out loud?

"It took a pandemic, but dare I say we've reached the apex of mom-shame," writes Rosemary Counter at NYT Parenting. Before COVID, mom-shaming was something one could do quietly, to oneself. But now, "when one parent's actions directly affect the health of the other's child," we're less likely to take the silent, "you do you" approach, and more likely to speak our minds out loud. And that makes sense, says reproductive psychiatrist Alexandra Sacks: "For so many parents, these are the highest stakes they've felt in their whole lives." To homeschool or not to homeschool? Are playdates okay? Can the kids hug grandma? Whatever you decide, someone else will have done the opposite, and sometimes this can feel personal. But remember: Much of our parenting guilt is self-imposed. "The good thing about peak anything," writes Counter, "is that there's nowhere to go but down."


Old habits die hard

In the ongoing and evolving quest to make classrooms more inclusive, author, activist, and former teacher Glennon Doyle has a tip for teachers: Stop referring to kids' moms and dads. Why? Because not every kid has a mom and a dad at home. Some live with just one parent, or two moms, or two dads, or their grandparents. "Consistently and specifically assuming that each child has one mother and one father caring for them at home may serve to make those with different family structures feel isolated," writes Meghan Moravcik Walbert at Lifehacker. And for very young children, "it may actually confuse them as to whether they are following the directions they've been given." Instead, Doyle suggests, "please consider saying 'your grown ups.'"


I miss recess

Health experts are worried that the pandemic is reducing kids' physical activity levels. Federal guidelines suggest children between ages 6 and 17 get at least one hour of exercise per day — and many meet that threshold at school during gym glass, team sports, or recess. But now, kids are staying indoors and spending more time in front of screens. That's bad: Physical fitness is essential for health, but also academics. "A lot of the improvement is seen specifically in math," says Hildi Nicksic, a clinical assistant professor in the department of health and kinesiology at Texas A&M University in College Station. The American Heart Association suggests teachers build physical activity into lesson plans: "Younger students learning to use a ruler can actively measure things around the room instead of sitting in front of a piece of paper. A teacher working with students over video could ask them to fetch a topic-relevant item from somewhere in their home."


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