The week's best parenting advice: March 30, 2021

Bonnie Kristian
Virtual doctor.
Illustrated | iStock
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What does herd immunity look like?

With COVID-19 vaccine distribution accelerating, normalcy is finally near. Herd immunity — "the situation where enough people are immune ... that disease protection extends to the non-immunized" — may be close, too. But it's not a great measure for deciding when to return to normal socializing (say, with extended family), says economist Emily Oster in her newsletter on "evidenced-based pregnancy and parenting." We don't actually know "what the COVID-19 herd immunity level is," she notes. Expert estimates still vary widely. For families (and policymakers), then, Oster recommends focusing instead on maximizing vaccinations. Set rules for your immediate family, she advises, and remember when dealing with vaccine-hesitant family members that you don't "need them to agree with you" about vaccines; "you just need them to get the shot." [ParentData, The Atlantic]


Go ahead and register for summer camp

If your kids want to go to camp this year, sign them up now. Vaccine trials are expanding to include children, but even if yours aren't vaccinated by the first day of camp, they'll likely still be able to attend. Many summer camps were canceled in 2020, and open camps had a mixed record on controlling the spread of COVID-19. But this summer, if we have "a considerable percentage of the population vaccinated" and low community spread, expect "a good degree of flexibility" for kids' activities, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on Sunday. The CDC has released guidance specific to summer camps, and some camps are already reporting long waitlists. [CNN, CBS Denver]


Should you do a remote pediatrician visit?

A virtual visit to the pediatrician may be an appealing option, writes Jennifer Chesak at Parents, but it's better suited to some circumstances than others. For non-emergency illness — especially skin conditions with easily-photographed symptoms — a remote checkup is a great idea. But for urgent care, which might require imaging or other tests, an in-person assessment is the way to go. That's also true of regular physicals (often called well-child checks), which include routine vaccinations in the younger years. "If you're considering a virtual visit," Chesak advises, "you should check with your insurance provider on patient cost-sharing." On some plans going remote is cheaper, but for others it may cost more than a standard appointment. [Parents]


The case for a rules-free backyard

"It was shortly after 3 p.m. on a Friday afternoon that I realized I'd made going outside a punishment," Patrick A. Coleman reveals at Fatherly, because he'd send his sons outdoors whenever they got too loud. So he tried a new approach, one in which the backyard became a place for no-rules "shenanigans." Coleman kept big boundaries — like bans on crime and animal cruelty — but beyond that he embraced the notion that a "muddy, dirty, bruised and bloody-kneed kid is a kid who's been living their outdoor life to the absolute fullest." No more "be careful" or "keep clean." Just the great outdoors as a place of rules-free autonomy and joy. [Fatherly]


Beverly Cleary's books are great pandemic reads

If the death of beloved children's author Beverly Cleary didn't already have you digging out your old Ramona Quimby books for your kids, consider that they're also great pandemic reads. "I remember reading [Cleary] as a kid and how true it all felt," muses Laura Shea Souza at Cognoscenti. "All these things that you know will seem small and silly to grown-ups feel huge and overwhelming and so you struggle with them yourself until you can't take it anymore." Ramona's ordinary frustrations may be overshadowed by COVID-19 for your children, but that only makes Cleary's genius in communicating "what it felt like to be a child, where so much is out of your control" all the more invaluable for young readers now. [Cognoscenti, USA Today]