The week's best parenting advice: October 6, 2020

How COVID affects kids' social skills, the benefits of saying yes, and more

A child on Zoom.
(Image credit: Illustrated | iStock)

1. Will COVID hurt kids' social skills?

The pandemic has changed how human beings interact, and this is true for our kids, as well. Many children aren't allowed to hug their friends, or are only engaging with their peers through a video screen. Will this leave them emotionally stunted? Jessica Grose investigated the question for NYT Parenting and concluded that "the majority of neurotypical kids will be able to socialize just fine." Kids under age 2 "are mostly playing by themselves," and elementary-school kids can get their social needs met very easily. But kids ages 2-5 may be missing out on lessons in moral reasoning, says clinical associate professor of child and family studies Sally Beville Hunter, Ph.D., adding that "they need to learn what is fair and what is right, and they learn that from being with other children." The good news is they can also learn this while playing with siblings. And experts told Grose mask wearing may actually help kids "become better verbal communicators."

The New York Times

2. Aim for yes

Children hear the word "no" a lot. That's mainly because they ask permission to do some ludicrous things, and it's their parents' job to draw the line. But Joanna Goddard at Cup of Jo says parents should "aim for yes" more often. "My knee-jerk reaction is sometimes to say no — I mean, just hop in the bath, just drink your milk — but then I think: Why not? If it's not hurting anyone, and they find it exciting or enticing for some reason, who cares? 'Aim for yes' runs through my mind, and I say go for it." Sure, your kid might get some funny looks wearing pajamas to the grocery store, or ruin one of their toys by dropping it out the second-story window, but "they will feel free and curious! And that's worth it, right?" If you're feeling really ambitious, you could even try giving your kid an entire "Yes Day."

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Cup of Jo CNN

3. The case for playing hookie

"We're weeks into the longest, most hellish school year of our kids' childhoods," writes Meghan Moravcik Walbert at Lifehacker. If your kids are struggling, there's no shame in taking a break. "Let your kids skip a day of virtual school," she says. Everyone needs a mental health day from time to time, and "it's hard to feel motivated about solitary online schoolwork (and to be patient about the endless technical difficulties) when every day is our own real-life version of Groundhog Day." If you're uneasy about the idea, you could pepper in some educational television throughout the day, or you could opt for skipping just half a day. Either way, "strategically timed breaks will give them something to look forward to and, hopefully, will leave them feeling a bit more refreshed and prepared for whatever the next day, week, and month bring us," Moravcik Walbert says.


4. Car talk

Need to have a heart-to-heart with your child? Do it in the car, says Melaina Juntti at Fatherly. "Cruising down the road with your child is a surefire way to find out what's really going on in their life," Juntti says. "There are fewer distractions, kids can't squirm away (at least physically), and there's a limited amount of time to tackle the topic at hand." Plus, cars tend to make people relax, says family psychologist Fred Peipman: "People say things in a car that they'd never say to someone on the street." Car rides leave less room for direct eye contact, so kids are less likely to feel intimidated or shy. If you're not sure how to get the conversation rolling, start with some lighthearted discussion before getting into the serious stuff. And avoid yes/no questions. "You'll get more information by asking open-ended questions and listening," Peipman adds.


5. Thumbs down!

Linguists say some common hand gestures are becoming obsolete because children don't recognize the technology they're based on. For example, you probably know the "call me" gesture — thumb to ear, pinky to mouth. But Vyv Evans, a professor of linguistics and communication expert, tells The Telegraph that this signal could be a thing of the past as landlines disappear. "Emblems that are specific to particular devices will only be recognized by those who are familiar with such devices," he says. "As technology changes, they lose their value." Other gestures you may never see again? The "roll down the window" arm spiral, the "what's the time?" wrist-tap, and yes, the "check, please" air scribble. In their place are new gestures, like a "waggle of thumbs" to indicate texting.

The Telegraph

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Jessica Hullinger

Jessica Hullinger is a writer and former deputy editor of The Week Digital. Originally from the American Midwest, she completed a degree in journalism at Indiana University Bloomington before relocating to New York City, where she pursued a career in media. After joining The Week as an intern in 2010, she served as the title’s audience development manager, senior editor and deputy editor, as well as a regular guest on “The Week Unwrapped” podcast. Her writing has featured in other publications including Popular Science, Fast Company, Fortune, and Self magazine, and she loves covering science and climate-related issues.