The week's best parenting advice: January 26, 2021
The science of moody teens, a new use for old typewriters, and more
Moods are contagious
Teenagers are notoriously moody, and new research suggests they can "catch" grumpy moods from their friends. In a pre-pandemic study from Oxford and Birmingham universities, researchers followed 79 kids between ages 15 and 19 as they lived together for a short amount of time while performing on a music tour. The kids recorded their daily moods and social interactions, and the results confirmed that "though both positive and negative moods are 'caught,' bad moods are more potent." But the research also showed that kids lift one another up. As The Guardian explained: "Though a teenager runs the risk of catching a friend's bad mood, they can also influence them with their own more positive mood and lift them out of their misery." The researchers hope the study will help us better understand emotional wellbeing in adolescents, and "how it may be possible to provide emotional support leading to improved mental health," said study co-author Per Block, of Oxford's Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science.
A new use for old typewriters
If you're looking for a relatively low-tech way to keep your kids occupied at home as the coronavirus pandemic continues, Meghan Moravcik Walbert at Lifehacker suggests you consider the humble typewriter. This idea came from one of her readers, a newspaper editor named Andy, who says he finds great satisfaction in a noisy keyboard, and figured kids might, too. "It's not just the noise of the keys, though — it's how you have to be kind of punchy with your fingers, really exerting a little effort for each letter, which is great because our kids have pent up energy right now and we've long since run out of ideas for how they can release it," Andy told Moravcik Walbert. And since typewriters don't have a "backspace" option, they can help teach kids to "accept, embrace, honor, and not be afraid of mistakes," Moravcik Walbert says.
How to raise creative children
"Creative thinking is a skill that's beneficial in every facet of our personal and professional lives," writes Mother Mag. "Just like a muscle, it can be developed and strengthened with the proper training." Open-ended, unstructured play should be encouraged. Avoid buying project kits that come with detailed instructions for a specific outcome, and instead "scaffold younger children's play with materials that don't have an inherent obvious use," says Zorana Ivcevic Pringle, director of the Creativity and Emotions Lab at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. You could also try challenging kids to reimagine common household objects for new purposes. And hey, even screentime can be creative time. LearningWorks for Kids founder Randy Kulman recommends "sandbox" games like Minecraft or Terraria, and programs that let kids bring their ideas to fruition, like video and photo editing apps, music programs, or drawing tools. "The earlier we encourage it in our children, the more beneficial it will be in the long run," Mother Mag writes.
When good kids do bad things
"Teens sometimes lie to their parents," writes Meghan Leahy, author of Parenting Outside the Lines, at The Washington Post, in response to a distressed parent who recently discovered their 13-year-old daughter was sneaking online time at the expense of her school responsibilities. "Even when teens know 'the right path,' the influence of others, the power of technology, and the desire to be liked and seen overrides their morals. This is not an indictment of her entire character; it's life." In these moments, Leahy says revoking any and all privileges could backfire. "By continuing the shock and heartbreak, you are building a deep crevasse between you and your daughter," she says. "This separation will not lead to her healing and good mental health; it will lead to depression, anger or more sneakiness — or all three." Instead, try a more compassionate approach: Work with her on ways she can earn back her tech privileges. "We must parent in a way where there is always a way to move forward. Always."
Will school ever be normal again?
For many parents, the million dollar question this year is this: When will my kids be physically back in school? HuffPost Parents asked a handful of experts to weigh in with their (heavily caveated) predictions, and they were mostly optimistic. "We will probably be approaching normalcy" by fall, says Eili Klein, an associate professor in the department of emergency medicine with Johns Hopkins University. By that he means K-12 kids will be back in classrooms. But other risk mitigation factors — like mask wearing — will probably still be in place. Parents will also have a clearer understanding of when, how, and why a school will close because of COVID-19. "I think … we will have specific cut-offs for when schools can open and when they need to close, kind of like weather reports," says Dr. Tanya Altmann, a California-based pediatrician.