The week's best parenting advice: October 27, 2020

Jessica Hullinger
COVID winter.
Illustrated | iStock
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1.

Bracing for winter

With a third coronavirus wave rolling across America, how can parents help their families prepare for the months to come? Christina Caron at The New York Times compiled some smart tips. First and foremost: Get vaccinated against influenza. This is good for your health, and also the health of the community. "The more people stay healthy, the less chance that hospitals will become overwhelmed with sick patients this winter," Caron explains. Other suggestions: Prepare a backup child-care plan in case someone falls ill and needs medical attention or has to quarantine. Stock up on supplies like fever reducers, diapers, and thermometers. And while it might be hard, try to stay in the moment rather than "speculating about an advancing surge." Opt for routine, find moments of quiet joy at home, and cut yourself lots of slack. "It's OK if your child is getting more screen time than usual or your go-to lunch has become quesadillas," Caron says. [The New York Times]

2.

The painful postpartum injury plaguing America's moms

There are tens of millions of American women quietly living with pain from a pregnancy-related injury called diastasis recti, writes Bonnie Kristian at The Week. "Diastasis recti is the injury to the muscles and connective tissues at the front of the core cavity," Kristian explains — these tissues are pulled apart during pregnancy, and sometimes they fail to grow back again, leaving women with chronic pain and pelvic floor dysfunction. Despite it being very common, diastasis recti is rarely talked about, and is "too often ignored, normalized, or labeled a superficial 'cosmetic' issue by the very providers [women] turn to for help." The good news is that it's treatable, and preventable. "Safe core training before and during pregnancy can help keep these injuries from happening in the first place," Kristian writes, "and proactive evaluation for diastasis recti and pelvic floor damage should be a routine part of postpartum care." [The Week]

3.

Hush little baby

Many parents hum lullabies to soothe a fussy baby — and often, it works. But researchers at Harvard's Music Lab wanted to know why: Are babies simply calmed by their parents' voices? Or are lullabies universally soothing? To answer this question, researchers played an unfamiliar song — a lullaby or non-lullaby — to babies and measured their relaxation levels by observing things like heart rate and pupil dilation. The songs in the study came from all over the world, and featured a number of foreign languages. The researchers found the infants appeared more relaxed in response to the lullabies, suggesting this kind of tune is soothing to babies no matter the language or performer. Connie Bainbridge, who co-led the research, says it's all about melody. "Melody is one of the things that sticks out for lullabies. In comparison, in a lot of other song types, such as dance songs, you would see rhythm as being more of a driving force." [The Harvard Gazette, Nature Human Behavior]

4.

How books can make us kinder

We all want our kids to grow up to be kind and compassionate, but how do we instill these values from the early days? "Teaching kids these important basics can happen in little moments, day after day, week after week, and add up to big results," says Katie Hintz-Zambrano at Mother Mag. A well-stocked bookshelf is a good place to start. Encourage your child to get in touch with their feelings by reading them books that deal with all the emotions. "Get interactive," Hintz-Zambrano says. "Ask your child to describe a time when they felt happy, sad, frustrated, scared, excited, etc., and share with them times when you've felt the same." This education allows them to empathize with others, a skill that can be strengthened further: "Take any children's book and turn it into a conversation about the character, what they are going through, and what your child would do if they were in the character's shoes," Hintz-Zambrano recommends. [Mother Mag]

5.

No wrestling in the house!

For those times when you just can't handle the frenetic energy of your roughhousing children any longer, an ingenious recommendation: "calm-housing." "Calm-housing is just like wrestling except slower, gentler, and quieter," writes an enterprising parent of two boys on Reddit. "In practice it basically amounts to my boys laying on the ground hugging each other while they whisper jokes into each others' ears." Or you could try enforcing "slow-mo" mode on wrestling sessions, which means kids have to do all their moves at a snail's pace. Meghan Moravcik Walbert at Lifehacker explained this to her 10-year-old son and "then we tried it out, and it is hilarious and fun. So now he and his friends can 'wrestle' between Spanish lessons" and get their energy out without completely annoying their teachers — or their parents. [Lifehacker]