Parenting advice

The week's best parenting advice: December 22, 2020

Handling pandemic stress, taking a virtual holiday trip, and more

1

How to deal with pandemic stress

Stress hits everyone. It always has. But now parents are stuck at home and cut off from the commutes, socializing, and other ways they had to de-stress in "the Before Times," says Steve Calechman at Fatherly. And kids notice. They're "little emotional tuning forks and can echo what we're feeling." So parents can treat this as an opportunity to teach children how to handle stress. If you snap, apologize. Tell them, "That was not a productive response," says Laura Dudley, associate clinical professor of applied psychology at Northeastern University. Explain that you were "worried, or "grouchy," because kids might not understand "stress," Dudley says. Let them know it's you, not them. Then address the stress itself. "You're showing that you can sit with bad feelings, not run from them," Calechman says, "and, once you calm down, you can problem-solve."

2

This winter break, see the world ... from home

Health officials are discouraging holiday travel, says Holly Burns at NYT Parenting, but you can give your children the best parts of being away, right in your living room. Let your kids pick a city and research it. "They could say 'Okay, we're going to Shanghai, we're going to eat dumplings at this particular place,'" notes Oneika Raymond, a travel expert and NBC New York correspondent. "Find a recipe for dumplings together and decorate the table like in the restaurant." You can "dust off that accumulating pile of kids' artwork and hold an exhibition," Burns says. Set up a hands-on science lab, like they have at children's museums. Maybe take a virtual trip to Broadway, and stream Hamilton for the theater fans in the house. "You don't need to take a plane to see the world," Raymond says.

3

Keeping kids from mimicking bad behavior

Toddlers are "master mimics," says Emily Edlynn, Ph.D. at Parents. Sometimes it's cute. Sometimes it's funny. But children often repeat bad behavior they don't understand, like cursing or worse — sometimes at the prodding of family members. "The good news: Your daughter's young and plastic brain has plenty of time to forget all of this and learn more positive behaviors," Edlynn says. "The bad news: You can't stop her from repeating behaviors, so you have to deal with the grown-ups." Make it clear you want them to behave better around your little one. If they fail to follow the rules, Edlynn says, "the fun ends. You take her away from them." But remember, Edlynn adds, "you are the biggest influence on your daughter." When she sees you set behavior rules with other grown-ups, she'll remember it.

4

Gifts for teachers in virtual classrooms

This holiday season, teachers really deserve some appreciation. But gift-giving is complicated with so many kids learning from home. Don't worry, says Meghan Moravcik Walbert at Lifehacker, just add this to the growing list of things you have to do virtually. You can email a gift card to a local coffeehouse or bookstore, or "ask them if they have any online wish lists you could peruse." The most meaningful gift might be the simplest — a handwritten letter from their student. You can photograph it and email it. More than another coffee mug, teachers need "some acknowledgement of the challenging job they're doing — and the positive impact they're still managing to make," says Moravcik Walbert. "And that is something any family, on any budget during a pandemic, can afford to give."

5

The toy boom

In lockdown, birthday parties are being postponed and vacations canceled, leaving many parents suffering from "COVID guilt," says Leslie Patton at Bloomberg. One cure? Toys. While many parts of the economy suffer, the toy industry is booming as parents and grandparents snap up puzzles, crafts, and games — anything to brighten the days of children starving for social activities. "For many parents, there has been this tension where they wish they could spend more time with their kids," said Rebecca Hamilton, marketing professor at Georgetown University. "They can't give them time but they can give them other things to occupy them." With demand up, even grocery stores are stocking board games as families look for ways to make the most of scaled down holiday gatherings.

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