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

Jessica Hullinger
A vaccine.
Illustrated | iStock
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1.

Can kids get the COVID-19 vaccine?

With the first doses of an approved COVID-19 vaccine being administered to adults in the U.S., Sumathi Reddy at The Wall Street Journal asks a pertinent question: "When will COVID-19 vaccines be available for children, and will they be safe?" While kids are less likely to get seriously ill from the virus, they can catch it and spread it to others, which means "it would be very, very difficult for us to reach herd immunity before vaccines are available to younger individuals," epidemiologist Michael Mina tells the Journal. But vaccines have to be tested in kids before they can be administered to kids. And the first trial of the Pfizer vaccine in older children has only just begun, with results expected in early 2021. Moderna wants to start testing its vaccine on children under 12 in the first quarter of next year, with the goal of developing a vaccine for adolescents "by the start of the 2021 school year," Reddy reports. Some doctors apparently think vaccine side-effects like fever and fatigue may be more pronounced in children than adults, but "side effects are a sign that the vaccine is working and the immune system is doing its job," Reddy writes. [The Wall Street Journal]

2.

Holidays in lockdown

For many families, holiday celebrations are going to be different this year. The pandemic means it'll be harder to gather with loved ones, or take part in traditions like the annual Santa visit, and that will no doubt come as a disappointment to many kids. How can parents manage expectations? Invite your child to help with the holiday planning, suggests licensed therapist and parenting coach Tory Joseph. "The greatest need for kids is to feel like they belong, are connected, and are part of something," Joseph says. If your budget is extra tight, you may need to shift the focus away from gifts this year. If so, "the key is telling kids ahead of time," writes Jennifer Davis at The Washington Post. Make the presents you do give really special with extra-fancy wrapping, or create a gift scavenger hunt to keep things fun. And find ways to give back: "Regardless of your family's financial situation, it can help to focus on what you can still do for others," Davis says. [The Washington Post]

3.

T-shirts and tantrums

Toddlers are notoriously grumpy about putting on clothes. Every layer of clothing has the potential to set off a temper tantrum, which can make mornings and bedtimes exhausting for parents. One idea? Make it a game, suggests Meghan Moravcik Walbert at Lifehacker. "They just want to have fun, and if getting dressed is delaying their fun, the only thing to do is make it enjoyable." Turn getting dressed into a race, or "pretend getting dressed is an Olympic sport, complete with play-by-play commentary while your little one races against the clock." If that doesn't work, consider this last-resort: "Let them sleep in tomorrow's clothes," Moravcik Walbert says. "Don't want to fight about changing out of pajamas? Then don't put them in pajamas in the first place." And remember: This is just another passing phase. Eventually they'll dress themselves without "screaming and crying and whipping clothes around in a hurricane of naked fury." [Lifehacker]

4.

How to encourage independent play

"Independent play is a skill your kids will use for the rest of their lives," writes Kate Rope at NYT Parenting, and parents can teach this skill from a young age. Start by letting your child know you have their back, even when they're playing on their own. A simple kitchen timer can do wonders here. "Set a timer for 20 minutes of playtime with you," Rope says. "Then, give them a hug, say you loved watching them play and go do your own thing." After that, encourage messy play, like paint, clay, or shaving cream, which will "keep kids engaged," Rope says. And stay connected: Check in, or even ask them to create something for you while they're off doing their own thing. "This way, they won't feel like you're shutting them out," Rope says. [NYT Parenting]

5.

What SpaceX explosions can teach kids

Last week, a prototype SpaceX rocket exploded while trying to land at its test site. The explosion may have seemed like an embarrassing defeat, but Isabella Bridie DeLeo at Fatherly suggests parents show the crash to their kids to teach them "about the benefits of failure." Bridie DeLeo points to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, who hailed the mission as a learning opportunity for the company, despite its ill-fated ending. "Successful entrepreneurs have extolled the virtues of failure, and that's something that kids should be thinking about as well to help them embark on lives of discovery, curiosity, and invention — as well as the scientific process itself," Bridie DeLeo says. Indeed, as Bill Gates once said: "It's fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure." [Fatherly]