It was hard for a lot of people to be parents this year. Many people have been having a hard time for a long time trying to care for their kids and teach them at home while also working, either with their kids or in the community, if they haven’t already lost their jobs.
How important it is to connect and communicate with your kids comes up in a lot of our favorite parenting books this year. It doesn’t matter if parents and babies communicate through touch, talk about scary news, or talk about puberty. One of the most important things parents can do for their kids’ social and emotional well-being is have warm, open conversations with them. You can use the information in these 2020 books to communicate better with your kids, build stronger relationships, and set them up for happiness and resilience in life.
When the World Feels Like a Scary Place: Essential Conversations for Anxious Parents and Worried Kids, by Abigail Gewirtz
This year has been hard for both kids and adults because of the coronavirus pandemic and the way people of different races are treated in the United States. Abigail Gewirtz, a researcher at the University of Minnesota, wrote a book called When the World Feels Like a Scary Place that talks about how to deal with emotions through conversations. A clinical psychologist who is trained in trauma, she talks about how to have conversations with kids and parents that help them understand how stressful things can make them feel. In times of stress, Gewirtz says, “Talking and listening are the best ways to help your kids become resilient, confident, and compassionate people.” “The first step is for you and your partner, if you have one, to learn how to recognize and deal with your own emotions.” She talks about how bad news and stress can make parents react in different ways because we all have different perceptions, genetics, personalities, and life experiences. She wants parents to try practical exercises to figure out where they feel stress in their bodies and how they deal with it. She also gives you ideas for ways to calm down, like taking 10 deep breaths, watching the news, laughing, and taking a break.
By Gewirtz, he tells us that parents spend only three minutes a day talking to their kids. It’s for this reason that she teaches parents how to listen and what to say, as well as how to say it, with sample scripts on topics like violence and natural disasters and COVID-19, the pandemic that killed more than a million people in the United States last year. When you have an important conversation with your child, the goal isn’t just to calm her down, but to help her understand that she can choose how to deal with her big feelings when the world is scary. There will be a lot of these conversations during your child’s childhood, and they will help him or her become a competent, caring adult in the end.
Confident Parents, Confident Kids: Raising Emotional Intelligence in Ourselves and Our Kids—from Toddlers to Teenagers, by Jennifer Miller
When you read Confident Parents, Confident Kids, Jenn Miller dispels a lot of myths about confidence. This is a quality that most of us want our kids to have. If Miller is correct, it’s not about being an extrovert, having a high IQ, getting straight A’s in school or ignoring our feelings. It’s about being true to ourselves and living our lives in the way that makes us happy. Confidence, which means being sure of your own abilities, comes down to having good emotional skills. Miller has worked for more than 25 years to help parents, teachers, and kids learn about social and emotional skills so that they can be more emotional. We can help our kids learn these important skills by modeling how we deal with big emotions, coaching them to find their own solutions, finding opportunities for them to try new skills, and making learning environments that are safe and positive (celebrating small steps).
When parents read Miller’s book, they will learn how to better understand their kids at different stages of their lives, from birth to their teens. For example, preschoolers and early school-age kids have to make a lot of transitions in their lives, like going from home to school to after-care and back again, with different rules and relationships with adults in each setting. At the same time, they are still learning how to think flexibly across settings. These changes can cause a lot of big emotions. As parents, you can help your kids develop their self-control and self-management skills by setting rules about screen time, practicing deep breathing, making a safe place for them to go when they have big feelings, and talking about anger together through children’s books. She gives you age-appropriate advice.This book is full of stories about parenting that show us how research-based, practical ideas work when we’re with our kids every day. “In a practical sense, children raise their parents,” she says. “As we become more aware of our own beliefs and learn more about how our children and ourselves grow, we gain enough skill to resonate, to improvise, and to build up a more complex, delicious sound that brings us deep joy, satisfaction, and meaning beyond our wildest dreams.”
The Power of Showing Up: How Parental Presence Shapes Who Our Kids Become and How Their Brains Get Wired, by Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson
What is the single most important thing I can do for my kids to help them succeed and feel at home in the world? What did they say? They said that they should show up for them.The people who say this isn’t always easy say it’s even more difficult when many parents have work and family obligations at home. You might think about doing the right thing all the time, but focusing on one thing at a time can help you get rid of that worry and let go of parental perfectionism.
A strong bond is built when parents are sensitive, responsive, and reliable to the needs of their children. Showing up is a way to do this. Children are more confident about understanding the world when they have a picture of what a relationship is that is both predictable and warm. They don’t feel stressed because the world seems so unpredictable.
Having a secure attachment means that children have better relationships with their parents, friends, and romantic partners; they have better coping skills; they have more self-esteem; they have stronger leadership skills; and they do better in school.
They say how to show up into four Ss: safe, seen, soothed, and safe. What can parents do to make sure their kids get the four Ss?
If you want to make your kids feel safe, don’t be a source of fear at home, make amends with your partner, and build a sense that home is a safe place. By being curious about kids instead of making assumptions or judgments, you can help them feel like they are important. You can also have conversations with them so that you can get to know them better. To make them feel better, parents can show kids how to calm down when they’re angry or stressed. They can also show them how to show affection. Feeling safe comes from all of the above, as well as teaching kids that they have value and that they can give themselves safety and comfort.
Ready or Not: Preparing Our Kids to Thrive in an Uncertain and Rapidly Changing World, by Madeline Levine
Psychologist Madeline Levine says that “anxiety is now the number one mental health disorder for both adults and children.” “Ready or Not is about dealing with that fear.” At the same time that we need more, not less, clarity about everything from which preschool will best nourish our toddler to what university is the best fit for our high-school senior, we are more anxious than we need to be.
Levine says that parents and kids who are stressed out have consequences in five main ways. Parents who set unrealistic expectations for their kids can put a lot of pressure on them and cut off the space they need for deep learning, which can lead to unhealthy overachieving. The “false self” is formed in kids who rely on other people’s approval (especially on social media) instead of taking the time to think about themselves and figure out who they are and what they want in life. Many kids are suffering from social isolation, which means they don’t have as many chances to learn important interpersonal skills. Parents who micromanage and give too much attention to their kids can keep them from experiencing how to deal with problems or failure and make them feel powerless. Many kids have a shaky sense of morality, which makes them want to be materialistic, break rules unethically, and cheat. How can parents help their kids deal with these problems and learn to be resilient and love learning? If you want your child to be able to do things like use a computer and do data analysis and think about things like how things work and how to make smart decisions, you should work on these skills and abilities first.“Of all the things parents can teach their kids, hope and optimism are the most important,” says Levine. “We can help our kids be hopeful and optimistic by letting them know that we can always change our environment and ourselves.” A wave: “The future is not a tide that will crush us. It’s a wave that we’re a part of.”
Safe Infant Sleep: Expert Answers to Your Cosleeping Questions, by James McKenna
An anthropologist named James McKenna was confused by the advice that experts gave new parents about how to put their babies to sleep. In parenting books, he and his wife looked for information about human infant biology, the importance of maternal touch in a baby’s well-being, or anthropological research on cross-cultural and primate sleep arrangements, but they didn’t find any of that. This is what he found out about the advice in these parenting books: It was mostly based on new, unscientific Western cultural ideas from male doctors who didn’t have any experience caring for babies in real life. McKenna’s book summarizes this missing research and offers important insights about how cosleeping can be made safe and what kind of benefits it might promote for children’s development and parents’ well-being. Cosleeping, or sleeping together, provides important sensory stimulation and communication between babies and parents, such as touch, scent, sound, and taste, that is important for brain development. Physical contact helps to build the physiological and social bonds that help children grow up and become strong adults. McKenna says that parents and babies also feel love when they sleep together.
His views are different from those of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which says that kids should share rooms but not beds. But he thinks that an anti-bed-sharing campaign is bad because it makes it hard for parents and their pediatricians to have open talks. McKenna and his colleagues say that while pediatricians say to sleep “separately,” they say “together, but safely.”
“I don’t want to tell you what to do or how your child should sleep,” says McKenna. There are a lot of different types of sleeping arrangements out there, and this book is going to help you figure out which one will be best for your family.
Decoding Boys: New Science Behind the Subtle Art of Raising Sons, by Cara Natterson
Children go through puberty when they’re between nine and 14 years old. In her book, Decoding Boys, pediatrician Cara Natterson wants to help parents support their sons as they go through this change. He used to be a very talkative boy, but now he’s not so much. Parents should keep interacting with their kids. They need us to keep the lines of communication open so that they can get what they need from us. It doesn’t matter what they say or what social rules say: “If he doesn’t want to talk about it, leave well enough alone; “He’s fine,” says Natterson. Not talking to your son about how he grows physically, emotionally, and socially is the biggest parent trap of them all. People will talk about things if you don’t have them: a friend who has it all wrong, a family member who doesn’t agree with you, or the Internet. Natterson gives 10 ideas for how to talk to boys about puberty and the changes that come with it. There is a good chance that your son is even more embarrassed by puberty than you are. You should start talking to him about it right away. When you’re done, pay attention and ask him questions so you can figure out what he’s going through. Avoid eye contact at first. Find times to talk when you’re not looking at each other, like at bedtime, and turn off your phones so that neither of you is distracted.
She says that you should use teachable moments from media or people you meet to show your rules and expectations. Explain them to your son without lecturing so he can understand why they are important. When you talk to your son, be patient. He may not speak for a long time or say more than a few words before he does. When your son doesn’t want to talk to you, find someone else he can talk to. This person will be your surrogate, someone your son can talk to when he doesn’t want to talk to you. Point out the good things about puberty, but don’t make it sound like there won’t be any bad parts. Do-overs: When you do something wrong and you realize it, say “I’m sorry,” and give yourself another chance to try again.