The week's best parenting advice: April 20, 2021

Jessica Hullinger
A tick.
Illustrated | iStock
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1.

The return of tick season

Spring marks the beginning of tick season, which means families should be extra diligent about checking for these pesky hitchhikers. Deer ticks can spread Lyme disease, which "causes fever, fatigue and — often but not always — a particular bulls-eye pattern skin rash," explains Emily Oster in the ParentData newsletter. Complications can be serious, but antibiotics can treat Lyme if administered soon after a bite, which is why early detection is key. Do a full-body tick check after any extended period outside, and look closely — "nymph" ticks are common in the spring and can be as small as a poppy seed. As Oster explains, the chances of Lyme infection increase the longer a tick is attached to its host: "One study found a 25 percent Lyme rate in bites with more than 72 hour attachment versus no cases in those with less." If you do find a tick, remove it and determine if it's a deer tick. If the answer is yes, watch for "a flat rash with a specific bullseye pattern," and consider calling your doctor. [Emily Oster]

2.

Tips for choosing a safe swimsuit

As summer approaches and parents are shopping for swimsuits for their children, Meghan Moravcik Walbert at Lifehacker recommends considering how a suit's color will affect its visibility in the water. After all, the more visible a child is while swimming, the safer they are. "Particularly for the untrained eye, a brighter colored suit may help you more quickly spot a child who has fallen into the water or notice they've been under longer than they should be," she writes. Neons and bright oranges are especially good. Blues and whites disappear quickly in the water, and darker colors can be mistaken for debris or shadows. "Whatever color your child's swimsuit happens to be, you should make a mental note of how it looks whenever they begin playing in any type of water, whether a pool, ocean, or lake," Moravcik Walbert writes. "That way, if you find yourself searching for them later, you'll have a clearer idea of what exactly you're looking for." [Lifehacker]

3.

No hitting

Why do kids sometimes hit their parents? And what can be done about this behavior? First, it's important to remember that toddlers are not capable of impulse control yet, because their frontal lobe isn't fully developed. "The unrealistic expectations parents have often lead us to interpret kids' physical behavior in a highly negative way: He must have been trying to hurt me," writes Melinda Wenner Moyer, author of How to Raise Kids Who Aren't A--holes. "This, thankfully, is unlikely to be the case." Instead, kids hit for a few reasons: Sometimes it's out of anger, sometimes they need sensory stimulation, but often they just want your attention. In all cases, parents should "give them more appropriate ways to channel their emotions," Wenner Moyer writes. If you believe your child is seeking attention, child development specialist Claire Lerner suggests you respond with positivity and re-direction. Offer them something else to hit, like a pillow. "It completely defies the purpose of their behavior, which then diffuses the power of the behavior." [Melinda Wenner Moyer]

4.

Teaching teens about breaking up

Breaking up is hard to do, especially for teens, writes Lisa A. Phillips at The Washington Post. "Because most teen relationships do end, it's critical to teach them how to break up with compassion and respect," Phillips writes. Parents can do this by urging teens to explain their reasoning for ending the relationship, which will "help both the rejecter and the rejected move on." Many teens will opt to end things via text or social media rather than in person, but it's "easier for them to give in to the temptation to toss off demeaning comments when they're not face to face," so encouraging an in-person (or video) conversation is best. And while teenagers are often hesitant to share their relationship troubles with mom or dad, parents can help keep the communication lines open by respecting and validating the relationship. "If you validate the relationship when it's going well, teens will feel comfortable confiding in you when it ends," Phillips says. [The Washington Post]

5.

I'm calling your parents

Let's be honest, "other people's kids are annoying," writes Jessica Grose at NYT Parenting. Inevitably, though, you'll spend some time looking after kids who aren't yours at play dates, sleepovers, field trips, etc. How can you maintain control — and sanity? First, be clear about the rules. "Each family has its own unique micro-culture," Grose writes, so setting expectations early is important. If bad behavior continues despite your attempts to correct it, you'll have to talk to the child's parents. But do this carefully. "No one wants to feel their child is targeted or singled out with an adult," says Yamalis Diaz, a clinical assistant professor of psychology. List the child's positive traits alongside the problem you're encountering. Avoid criticizing the child, and instead critique the behavior. "That does not mean the discussion will go well, of course. But at least you are setting yourself up for the best possible version of this difficult kind of feedback," Grose says. [NYT Parenting]