The week's best parenting advice: April 27, 2021
How to navigate the world with unvaccinated kids, the two words parents should stop saying, and more
Are the unvaccinated kids alright?
As more American adults receive their COVID-19 vaccine, immunized parents find themselves wondering what kinds of activities they can do with their unvaccinated children. This is a tough decision, writes David Leonhardt at The New York Times. But he makes the case for resuming many pre-pandemic activities with confidence. After all, COVID-19 has so far proven much less risky for kids than for adults: Leonhardt points out that the disease has killed fewer kids than an annual flu season normally would. "For the average kid, COVID is a negligible risk," Dr. Aaron Richterman, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Pennsylvania, told Leonhardt. On the flip side, studies suggest lockdown and the social isolation that comes along with it can do harm to kids, too. So unfortunately, there is no risk-free option, but parents who choose to resume normal life "will be making a decision that is as scientifically grounded as the more cautious approach," Leonhardt says.
When 'be careful!' can backfire
Next time your child is doing something slightly risky, resist the impulse to tell them to "be careful." If kids hear this refrain too often, "they may become overly cautious in ways you never intended," writes Megan Glosson at Moms. "This, in turn, may prevent your child from taking risks," and kids need to take risks to develop confidence and self-regulation. But you don't just have to stand idly by while your child does scary stuff. Seize these opportunities to teach your child spatial awareness and problem solving. It's all about phrasing, says Josée Bergeron at Backwoods Mama. For example, saying something like: "Do you see that weak branch?" is more instructive than "Be careful!" Instead of saying, "Get down before you fall," try: "How will you get down?" "It's important that we let our kids engage in risky or challenging play because it's a great way for them to practice problem solving skills," Bergeron says.
The benefits of learning chess
Speaking of taking risks, new research finds that teaching kids to play chess may reduce their aversion to risk. For the paper, published in the Journal of Development Economics, researchers taught chess to 400 U.K. children ages 15 to 16, then monitored changes in their cognitive abilities. A year later, most of the participants appeared more likely to take calculated risks during game-playing scenarios. Some students also saw improvements in math scores, rational thinking, and logic. "The researchers note that the game of chess is very well suited to building confidence in risk taking when there is reason to believe it might improve an outcome," writes Bob Yirka at Phys.org. "In contrast, students also learned to avoid taking risks haphazardly, finding that such risks rarely lead to a positive outcome. They also note that the line between good and poor risk-taking is especially evident in chess, which means that the more a person plays, the sharper their skills become."
Control your comparisons
From the moment Lynn Berger learned she was pregnant with her second child, a son, she couldn't help comparing him to his big sister. She was born on her due date, he was late. She learned to walk sooner than he. He got over tantrums earlier than she. "In coming first, she had set a baseline against which we measured him," Berger writes at Mother. Then an instructor at a parenting workshop explained that parents who openly compare their children can encourage unhealthy sibling rivalry. So she decided to stop. "Whenever I find myself thinking that my son differs from my daughter in this or that respect, or the other way around, I catch myself," she explains. "I remind myself to try and look at this one child in isolation as much as I can." It hasn't been easy, but "simply being mindful of whatever tendencies you might have can help you, if not to root them out, then to mitigate them at least."
How to introduce kids to video games
Parents have long been told video games are bad for young children and should be avoided. You've heard the dire warnings: Gaming can encourage violence, decrease attention span, and reduce physical activity. But you won't be able to hide video games from your kids forever. Instead, parents should look for ways to use gaming to teach kids about the world, says Dr. Sinem Siyahhan, a co-director of the Educational Leadership Joint Doctoral Program with UC San Diego at California State University San Marcos. Finding age-appropriate games is key, of course, and "there are plenty of educational-type games and apps featuring characters like Dora the Explorer targeted to children preschool-age and beyond," writes Jason Keil at Lifehacker. Once you've chosen a game, sit with your child as they play and be their guide. "You can also have conversations about how to think for themselves and manage their frustrations when they can't complete a level," Keil writes.