The week's best parenting advice: April 6, 2021

Jessica Hullinger
A child wearing a facemask.
Illustrated | iStock
Our parenting newsletter is a weekly roundup of the best parenting insights from scientists and family experts. To receive the newsletter every week, please enter your email below:

1.

The new vaccine skeptics

Are parents the new face of vaccine hesitancy? Just half of U.S. parents plan to vaccinate their kids against COVID-19 as soon as possible, according to an Axios-Ipsos survey. Axios notes that "Republicans surveyed were most resistant to vaccinating their children." While it's true that kids are less likely than adults to get very sick and die from COVID-19, "a January study found that the rate of hospitalization among people under 19 had increased more than eightfold over the course of the pandemic," observes James Hamblin at The Atlantic. Meanwhile, many experts believe newer variants are more likely than the original strain to infect young people. Parental caution is understandable, but "pediatricians already know that, in principle, the COVID-19 vaccines will be safe for children," Hamblin says. Parents concerned about mRNA vaccines "purely on the basis of their relative newness" might consider the adenoviral-vector vaccine from Johnson & Johnson. "Each vaccinated person helps lower the risk to everyone else," Hamblin says. [Axios, The Atlantic]

2.

Can LinkedIn help normalize full-time parenting?

LinkedIn is expanding its list of job titles users can put on their online resume to include "stay-at-home mom" and "stay-at-home dad," Fortune reports. The move is intended to "allow full-time parents and other caretakers to provide more accurate descriptions of their time away from the paid labor force," Fortune adds. It's about time, writes Jamie Orsini at Motherly. "If you've taken time off from your career to care for a child or loved one, you shouldn't face unnecessary barriers when you'd like to return to work." But there's still a lot of work to be done toward normalizing full-time parenting. One recent study found that stay-at-home moms are half as likely to land a job interview compared to moms who have been laid off. According to Kate Weisshaar at HBR, stay-at-home parents, when identified as such, are seen as less reliable and less committed to work — and this was especially true for stay-at-home dads. [Fortune, HBR]

3.

How to teach scissor safety

A parent's instinct is to keep all sharp objects away from their young children, but using scissors correctly is a fine motor skill that "needs to be learned in the preschool years," says Susie Allison at Busy Toddler. She has a simple hack for making it easier: Draw a tiny smiley face on the thumb of your child's scissors-wielding hand, and tell them to keep the smiley face upright. "When kids start using scissors, the natural inclination is to twist their wrists and hands," Allison says. "This makes cutting REAL hard." The smiley face trick helps make an abstract idea (don't twist your hand!) concrete. Be sure to choose a pair of scissors that fits your child's hands, and reinforce Parents' two "golden scissor safety rules": Paper is the only thing we cut, and no running or walking with scissors. [Busy Toddler, Parents]

4.

Breaking a thumb-sucking habit

How old is too old to be a thumb-sucker? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, age 4 should be the upper limit. That's because thumb-sucking can affect the shape of a growing child's mouth or their teeth alignment. Most kids will outgrow the habit, but if not, parents might need to intervene. Start by talking about the problem. "If a child understands why it's time to cease the habit and takes some ownership in choosing the method along with you, they're more likely to be successful," says Meghan Moravcik Walbert at Lifehacker. Identify their triggers — sleep, stress, boredom, etc. — and introduce a substitution during those moments. Keep their hands busy with a craft during TV time, for example, or offer a cuddly toy at bedtime. And, as Walbert says, "go heavy on the positive reinforcement." Applaud them for not sucking their thumb, "particularly during what you know to be a trigger time for them." [Lifehacker]

5.

How to talk to kids about addiction

Jessica Lahey got sober eight years ago after a decade of alcoholism. Now Lahey, the author of The Addiction Inoculation, is doing what she can to ensure her children don't repeat her mistakes. She says this begins by fostering a relationship with her sons based on honesty and openness. "Begin your long-term education in substance use and abuse with general talk about their health and safety, then, as they mature, get into the specifics of substance use beginning with the substances they are most likely to encounter early, such as nicotine and alcohol, and progressing on to the health and legal ramifications of harder drugs as well as the effects of these substances on the brain and mood." Start your prevention efforts when they're in elementary school, and keep it up through early adulthood. "The topic of substance use should be frequently discussed and evolve at an age-appropriate level as your kids grow up," Lahey says. [The Washington Post]