Parenting advice

The week's best parenting advice: October 13, 2020

Will COVID ruin Christmas? How are teens spending money? And more.


Christmas in the time of COVID

The coronavirus pandemic has already put a damper on Halloween festivities. Will COVID ruin Christmas, too? Some traditions will certainly look a little bit different this year. For example, kids won't be able to sit on Santa's lap and tell them all about their wish lists. After all, "Santas are typically in a minimum of two high-risk categories for the coronavirus," says Rick Rosenthal, cofounder of the Northern Lights Santa Academy, a Santa school in Atlanta. "They are usually individuals over the age of 65 and they are overweight." So malls are trying to make the experience safer, according to CNN, by aiming for a "touchless" experience. In many shopping centers, social distancing measures, mask rules, and maybe even physical barriers will be in place. One mall operator is putting Santa in a snow globe to keep him safe. Others are opting for plexiglass windows. And yes, Zoom calls are also an option, assuming you're not sick of video chats by then.


How teens are spending money

Speaking of the mall, teenagers are probably spending less time there these days, but that doesn't mean they're not shopping. A semiannual survey from investment bank and financial services company Piper Sandler finds that teens say they're spending about $2,150 a year — that's down 9 percent year over year, which could be explained in part by the fact that fewer teenagers report having a job this year than last. Still, 84 percent of teenagers say they've visited a retail store since the pandemic began. What are they buying? Athleisure gear, apparently. Nike was the top apparel brand on the list, "gobbling up a market share of 27 percent," Barron's reports. Lululemon was a hot commodity, as well. "Leggings/lululemon are the No. 1 trend for females in school and lululemon is the No. 2 athletic apparel brand behind Nike," says analyst Erinn Murphy. Other must-haves included cosmetics from brands like Ulta and e.l.f. Beauty, the latter of which is targeting teens on TikTok.


I couldn't help but overhear ...

"Kids are little parrots," writes Sarah Cottrell at When they're very young, this tendency to repeat what they hear is cute, even funny. But "when kids begin to eavesdrop and collect details of serious conversations not meant for their ears, well, that's when parenting can feel particularly challenging." It's natural for kids in the "tween" years to eavesdrop, Cottrell says, because they're fascinated by the adult universe. But adult conversations are not always appropriate for little ears, and "letting your kids know in no uncertain terms where the boundaries around private and shared conversations exist is not a bad thing." If you catch your child listening in, ask what they were hoping to hear, and see if you can clear up any questions they might have up front. Kids "are trying to figure out what is going on, what is safe, how to survive, and how to thrive," clinical psychologist Lindsay Weisner, Psy.D., tells Cottrell. "The smartest thing to do is to gather information."


The main goal

Olympic gold medalist and FIFA World Cup champion Abby Wambach spoke to Slate's parenting podcast, Mom and Dad Are Fighting, about how to raise a well-adjusted — but competitive — athlete, even if you don't have an athletic bone in your body. Her main advice was to be considerate with what you say when your kid comes off the field. Start with "I love watching you play," Wambach says. Then ask how they felt about the game. "And number three: 'What was something that you learned today that you didn't know before?' And that is it. That is all you need to say ... because anything more, you are indirectly telling them that your love is conditioned on them being good or not messing up on the field. The whole thing with sports is making mistakes and dealing with it and making mistakes and dealing with it."


Once upon a time

Reading books at bedtime is just part of the parenting job description. But if you want to go above and beyond, put down the book and opt for storytelling, instead. “Listening to the story without the benefits of the illustrations requires the child to picture the characters and the events in their own mind," Rebecca Isbell, Ph.D., an early childhood education consultant and professor emerita at East Tennessee State University, tells NYT Parenting. Of course, not every parent is a natural storyteller. If you struggle to keep the narrative flowing, remember the basics: Every story should have a conflict and a resolution, writes Paul L. Underwood. Pay attention to your pitch and pacing, and pause from time to time to “keep your child on the edge of their seat (or pillow).” And don't hesitate to encourage audience participation: Ask your child to choose what happens next in the tale. This is great for fostering imagination. It "also helps if you're hard up for material," Underwood says.


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