The week's best parenting advice: February 16, 2021

Jessica Hullinger
A sick child.
Illustrated | iStock
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A rise in severe coronavirus-induced illnesses in kids

Cases of the coronavirus-induced Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children, or MIS-C, are growing more common and more severe, doctors report. While the condition remains rare — 2,060 cases have been recorded in America since the pandemic began — at least one hospital in Washington, D.C., reports that between 80 and 90 percent of its patients with MIS-C now need treatment in intensive care, compared to about half during the hospital's first wave. Children ranging from infancy to age 20 usually start displaying MIS-C symptoms a few weeks after contracting COVID-19. Initial symptoms include fever, rash, red eyes, or gastrointestinal problems — a common set of issues that lead pediatricians to sometimes overlook MIS-C as a diagnosis. But the illness can soon progress to severe cardiovascular issues. Older children and those who are obese tend to have more severe cases. So far, most children have gone home healthy after fighting off the illness, though doctors aren't sure how it will affect them in the long run. [The New York Times]


The case for banning loud toys

Noise-making toys are extremely annoying. But there's another, perhaps more urgent, reason to avoid them: They could be dangerous for your kid. Dr. Nkeiruka Orajiaka, an ER pediatrician and a mother of three, recommends removing loud toys from your kid's collection, because some can actually cause hearing damage. If you're not sure what constitutes "loud," the Sight and Hearing Association put together a helpful list called, aptly, the "Noisy List." It includes toys like the little baby bongo drums and the Blippi recycling truck. "If one of these toys happens to be your child's favorite, try covering the speaker with some plastic packaging tape, which will dampen the sound," Insider suggests. "Or you can always remove the battery and use the toy without its sound function." [Insider]


'I can't do it for you'

"One of the most frustrating feelings for a parent is knowing that your child is capable, but nevertheless not following through," write Brian Platzet and Abby Freireich at The Atlantic's Homeroom in response to a distressed parent whose daughter is submitting incomplete homework and getting bad grades as a result. Parents can help in this situation, but it's tricky, because "when parents are overbearing or overinvolved, kids tend to push back." Start with praise and positivity: Tell your kid how smart they are, and how much potential they have. Then introduce a homework checklist that lists each assignment and how long it will take, plus a 15-minute "work review" window for going over each finished project. If your child is still struggling, reach out to their teachers. "Many kids are more responsive and less resentful when they get pointers from someone other than their parents," Platzet and Freireich say. [The Atlantic]


The mold problem

Mold is a major problem in America. One estimate suggests that more than half of the houses in the U.S. have mold problems. When mold spores are inhaled, they can cause allergy-like symptoms like wheezing, sneezing, and coughing in both kids and adults. But mold is hard to spot, often lurking behind walls or in crawl spaces. What can worried parents do? Michael Rubino, author of The Mold Medic: An Expert's Guide on Mold Removal, told that one easy way to test for mold in your home is through the "toilet tank test." "If you lift the toilet tank up, you flip it over, and you look inside — the underside of the toilet tank lid — and you see any kind of black mold growing on the lid or inside the tank," it's likely there's mold elsewhere in your house, Rubino says. Prevention is key, so don’t neglect your cleaning routine. Mold can combine with dust, "so as you're removing dust, you're removing other indoor air contaminants naturally," Rubino says. []


How to calm vaccination anxiety

Coronavirus remains very much at the top of parents' minds, but one sure way to help kids stay healthy even while the pandemic continues is by keeping up with their regular vaccination schedule. But what if your child is afraid of shots? You can help alleviate their fears by giving them a heads up about the appointment so they're not surprised, and explaining why it's important "in basic language," writes Meghan Moravcik Walbert at Lifehacker. Let them have some control over the process: "When you go into the exam room, let them choose to sit in your lap or on their own. They can choose which arm gets the shot, and which Band-Aid will cover it up. … Letting them have a say in a couple of these things can ease a feeling of helplessness." Most importantly, keep yourself calm so your child doesn't feed off your anxiety. [Lifehacker]