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Protecting the Child, Preserving the Family, and Honoring Life

Welcome to the Blog page of the American College of Pediatricians.  Each issue of the Blog is intended to assist parents, encourage children, and enrich the family.  Read our most recent issue below, and scroll to the bottom of this page to read earlier issues.

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Benefits of “Baby Talk”: Infant Language Stimulation

When a new baby is around a group of adults, chances are that you will hear many people launch into an animated, high-pitched voice and make silly sounds that would be quite amusing out of context. It just so happens that this type of silly communication we use in fawning over babies is helpful to their learning. Sometimes referred to as “mother-ese” or even “baby talk”,

Infant-Directed Speech is the speaking style that adults often use to speak to their babies in a certain voice register, with exaggerated pronunciation of syllables, and a slower pace. 

This is something that most parents all over the world seem to naturally do, but research consistently proves that this manner of talking is beneficial for your young child’s language development. Babies’ brains are primed for the fast accumulation of words and language comprehension, but they need adults to talk to them and around them for them to learn. Experts say that babies need to hear a word about 500 times before they say them! (Albert Einstein College of Medicine, 2015). Infant-directed speech is a way that adults make learning words and sounds a little easier.

  • Several studies have found results showing that babies will pay attention longer to an adult using infant-directed speech than to adult-directed speech (Spinelli, 2017).
  • Brain scans on infants revealed higher amounts of brain activity for babies listening to infant-directed speech, than for normal speech (Naoi et.al., 2012).
  • Further research on infant-directed speech has found that children who were exposed to more infant-directed speech at age 1, tend to have a larger vocabulary at age 2 than children who were exposed to less. (Ramirez, 2014).

Note: Once children are above the age of 3, they benefit more from being spoken to in a normal tone of voice. They can recognize what “baby talk” is and don’t benefit from knowing that they are being spoken to like a baby- they want to feel big! Additionally, as they are already developing language acquisition, they learn from observing your modeling of how to talk and communicate in the proper way. Avoid using incorrect terms for things, like mimicking how they say “basketti” instead of “spaghetti” (even if it is absolutely adorable) so you can help them hear the correct word.

Tips for Helping Your Infant or Toddler Develop Language

  • Use “self-talk.” Narrate your day to day activities for your child as you go. It may seem funny to talk to your child before they can answer back, but they are listening! For example, say “Now I’m getting a new diaper!” during diaper changing, or “I’m cooking soup for dinner!” in the kitchen. They need to hear the different sounds of speech and associate words you say with what they see you do. Children typically learn language comprehension at a faster rate than they learn language production. They may understand a lot more than they can say. Some research shows that babies can understand many words at 7 months old and “practice them in their brains” (Shere, 2014).
  • Label what a child is doing and objects of interest for them. This is called “parallel talk”. For example, say, “You found the ball!”, when they reach for the ball. Use simple phrases for actions, such as saying “coats on!” when getting ready to go outside. (Walker & Bigelow, 2012).
  • For children under age 1, you can talk to them often and repeat simple sounds for them, letting them watch your mouth as you do. Repeating sounds such as “ba ba ba ba” or “da da da da da” breaks down language into a much simpler form for them. This may come through imitating the sounds that your child makes.
  • Read books with your child, starting at a young age. Help them come to learn that books are wonderful and fun. Use thick, board books that are less breakable for young toddlers and let them handle them. They might want a certain story to be read over and over again!
  • Singing songs and teaching children nursery rhymes are valuable learning tools because of the repetition of sounds. Children can learn songs at a young age. Music can teach them vocabulary, rhyming, math, social skills, and other things!
  • Follow what a child seems interested in and talk about those things. They will learn more as you use words to contribute to what they are already playing or show responsiveness to. (Walker & Bigelow, 2012).
  • When a child begins to make one or two word phrases like “Dog!”. Expand their words by adding detail and sentence structure. Say, for example, “Yes, that’s grandpa’s dog! He is little!”

So how can you help your baby or toddler develop language skills at an appropriate pace?

Talk to them and talk a lot! The more you engage them in the use of language the more easily and quickly they will be soon be speaking to you.


For more information, see the following resources:

A quick and helpful video from licensed speech pathologist, Kimberly Scanlon, author of the book, My Toddler Talks. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BdzlTyknaH8

For a helpful guide on promoting language development for your infant and toddler, see: – http://www.talk.ku.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/PC-Manual-web-site-and-distrib-9-26-141.pdf.

Watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a7WAfwKi88Q for a guide on the developmental milestones in language during your baby’s first year of life.

Video on research from San Diego University about how a child’s early language comprehension affects their later development: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I5bww1xreQE

References

Albert Einstein College of Medicine. (Apr. 15, 2015). Developmental Milestones: Baby Talk from First Sounds to First Words. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a7WAfwKi88Q

Skanlan, K. (Jun 26, 2013). Speech Therapy for Toddlers: 5 Great Tips! Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BdzlTyknaH8

  1. Naoi, Y. Minagawa-Kawai, A. Kobayashi, K. Takeuchi, K. Nakamura, J. Yamamoto, S. Kojima. (2012). Cerebral responses to infant-directed speech and the effect of talker familiarity Neuroimage, 59(2), 1735–1744.
  2. Ramirez-Esparza, A. Garcia-Sierra, P.K. Kuhl. (2014). Look who’s talking: Speech style and social context in language input to infants are linked to concurrent and future speech development. Developmental Science, 17(6), 880–891

Shere, J. (Nov. 7, 2014). Baby talk. In A Moment of Science. Retrieved from: http://indianapublicmedia.org/amomentofscience/baby-talk-amos/

Spinelli, M., Fasolo, M., & Mesman, J. (2017). Does prosody make the difference? A meta-analysis on relations between prosodic aspects of infant-directed speech and infant outcomes. Developmental Review, 441-18. doi:10.1016/j.dr.2016.12.001

Walker, D. & Bigelow, K. (2012). Strategies for Promoting Communication and Language of Infants and Toddlers. Juniper Gardens Children’s Project. Retrieved from: http://www.talk.ku.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/PC-Manual-web-site-and-distrib-9-26-141.pdf.

Photo obtained from https://pixabay.com/en/baby-cute-child-happy-toddler-toy-84552/

 

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The Scoop on ADHD


Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a topic filled with diverse opinions. To some, it seems like a modern trend that can hardly count as a real diagnosis. For parents of children with ADHD, it is often a central focus of their lives, the cause of much stress, concern, and early grey hairs. Others struggle with the understanding of what causes ADHD and whether or not medications are the sole best way to remedy it.

All of the contradicting, heated opinions and research can leave a parent overwhelmed with how to best help their ADHD child succeed. Some assume that it is just poor parenting behind diagnoses of ADHD, and this only adds to the feelings of guilt and confusion for anxious parents.

ADHD Basics

ADHD is considered a developmental disorder, or set of characteristics, that develops in childhood, typically before age 13. It is not considered something that adults can develop, who did not already have it in childhood. The main symptoms of ADHD are:

  • Difficulty with impulse control, delayed gratification, and resistance to distractions.
  • “Excessive task-irrelevant activity” (Barkley & Murphy, 2006) and restlessness. Children with ADHD often display fidgeting and other movements that are unrelated to the task at hand.

Those with ADHD also may display difficulty in regulating emotions, impaired problem-solving, and struggles to maintain motivation to complete tasks that they do not find interesting.

What is the Difference Between ADD and ADHD?

ADHD is considered the official term in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. However, those diagnosed with ADHD do not always have the “hyperactivity” symptoms, and commonly use the term ADD. In other words, ADD merely refers to ADHD without hyperactivity. Formerly, there were two separate diagnoses for ADHD and ADD, but now they are both officially lumped together as ADHD and “ADHD, inattentive subtype”, although the term ADD is still widely used.

Other Facts about ADHD

  • The majority of research shows that the use of stimulant medications to treat ADHD leads to the best and most lasting results.
  • Many doctors recommend that improving nutritional diet, exercise, and adding structure to a person’s schedule will enhance the effectiveness of medication and improve focus overall.
  • The Centers for Disease control recommends that children ages 6 and up receive behavioral therapy in combination with medication for ADHD. Less than 1 in 3 receive this ideal approach, with many receiving only medication.
  • “Because behavioral therapy is the safest ADHD treatment for children under the age of 6, it should be used first, before ADHD medication for those children,” according to researcher Ileana Arias.
  • It is estimated that genes and heritability account for 80% of the development of ADHD.
  • ADHD may be underdiagnosed in girls and in minorities. They may display less of the hyperactivity component and be able to hide their inability to focus through the desire to appear compliant.
  • Children who have ADHD are more likely to also have depression (20-30% of those with ADHD) and anxiety, as well as other mental and emotional disorders.
  • ADHD in children does not always include behavioral issues and defiance. It also can be displayed in forgetfulness and difficulty in following through with a task.

Suggestions for Parents of a Child with ADHD

The National Resource Center on ADHD recommends that the first ways parents can begin helping their child with ADHD are:

  • Avoid self-blaming. This will “waste your limited emotional energy” (National Resources Center on ADHD, 2017). ADHD is a health disorder and is not the cause of imperfect parenting. There is much research showing that most ADHD cases are genetically linked.
  • Research and learn about ADHD. It is important to be careful to separate inaccurate or incomplete information from true information. Focus on scholarly and reputable websites.
  • Make sure your child’s assessment is comprehensive. Rule out the possibility of other disorders being the cause of symptoms, and include medical, educational, and psychological evaluations.
  • Be actively involved in your child’s education as an advocate. Keep careful records of all your child’s evaluations and records. Be involved in the creation of your child’s Individual Education Plan, if he or she has one, and work with teachers and school staff as a team.
  • Reach out for help from support groups, counseling, and classes for behavior management. Never try to face the situation alone. Seeking out others who can understand will relieve a lot of stress.
  • Focus on your child’s strengths. Help your child understand that you will love them unconditionally. Set aside a regular time when you can spend one-on-one time with your child with positive interactions. Notice even the small accomplishments your child achieves.

Despite the challenges associated with the negative side of ADHD, through treatment and a few lifestyle adjustments, children and adults with ADHD can find great success and fulfillment in life.

For more information


References

Fink, J. W. (2016). Inside ADHD. Scholastic Teacher, 125(4), 41.

Hallowell, E.M. (2017), ADHD overview: Top ten questions on ADHD. Retrieved from: http://www.drhallowell.com/add-adhd/top10questions/

  1. A. Barkley & K. R. Murphy (2006) Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: A clinical workbook (3rd ed.). New York: Guilford Publications. Copyright 2006 by Guilford Publications. Reprinted with permission.
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Talking to Teenagers about Drugs & Alcohol

 

Parents are arguably the most important person on a child’s side in helping them to avoid addiction to alcohol and harmful drugs. Teenagers who have regular, serious conversations about drug prevention with their parents are around 50% less likely to use drugs than those who don’t, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health of 2012. (5)

Click for original infographic with sources

Knowing when and how to talk about such a deep subject with a child, whether they may be using drugs or not, is difficult. It takes courage and careful listening for your child. The following are some tips on talking to children about drugs, taken from some leading websites in teen drug prevention.

How to Talk to Your Teen about Marijuana (and other Drugs)

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Young Children and Sports

There are many benefits to sports programs for youth. Children learn new skills, sportsmanship, work ethics, responsibility, and teamwork. They gain physical strength and agility, as well as overall improved health.  They learn to win graciously (we hope) and accept and learn from failure. They get a chance to socialize, make new friends and just have fun!

But there are always hazards to any sports activity.

In recent news, reports have emphasized the problem with concussions. How can you help your child properly prepare and train to avoid injury?

  • Make sure your child has and uses the proper equipment to protect them from injury.
  • Make sure your child eats a healthy diet. The food they eat becomes fuel for their bodies. To participate in sports they need to be healthy on the inside as well as on the outside.
  • Make sure they are getting enough sleep. This helps their bodies regain the strength they lost during the day.
  • Encourage your child to play a variety of sports. This provides the benefit of varied activity while facing additional physical and psychological demands from intense training and competition.
  • Limit the amount of time your child spends training or practicing a sport.
  • Do not encourage a child to “work through” an injury. Make sure the injury is checked out by a doctor if necessary and give the child adequate time to heal.
  • Before practices and games make sure your child warms up their muscles.

Children should take responsibility for eating well, keeping hydrated, doing the proper stretching exercises, and getting the rest they need.  They should also report any pain or unusual symptoms to their parents or coach.

Parents take the responsibility of their child having a complete physical, providing proper nutrition and hydration, and following any directions given by the coach or doctor.  They are also responsible for providing any protective gear and equipment needed such as proper shoes, shin guards, mitts, masks, padding, etc. If child sustains an injury, they should see that proper medical help is sought.

Coaches should conduct practices in a safe manner, providing adequate rest and recovery, hydration, and requiring proper safety gear and equipment, and instruction on how to use the gear and equipment properly.  Coaches should follow up on any injuries sustained during practice or play and bench any player that might have sustained a serious injury.

Sports organizations should provide materials and instructions about age requirements, safety and safety equipment, as well as insurance requirements. Teams should be divided into age or gender appropriate categories.

Ultimately, don’t be afraid to let your child venture out and participate.

Just be prepared!

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Being a Responsible Citizen by Strengthening Marriage and Family

american-flag

Alan J. Hawkins, a professor at Brigham Young University, wrote an article entitled “Responsible Citizenship to Strengthen Marriage and Family” that was originally published in the Marriage and Families journal in 2006. The following is from his article.

“Citizens of democratic governments enjoy great freedoms, but they also carry a burden of responsibility… All citizens should bear the burden of good government… There are many causes related to family life that need our involvement. One of the most crucial, contemporary challenges is the need to strengthen the institution of marriage.

He states that there are many people in the US that still want and believe in traditional marriage and families, but “the divorce and sexual revolutions have diminished the institution of marriage.”

To aid in this effort of strengthening marriage and families, Hawkins lists four ideas that can readily be applied to supporting any good cause. Here is what he says…

  • Be informed. “Our active participation in public life will be more effective when we take the time to study the issues, learn about relevant research, and stay current. Fortunately, this is easier to do than ever before with the widespread availability of the Internet. There are many good websites to visit to gain current information and research about marriage and family issues.”
  • Collaborate with other like-minded individuals and groups. He says that sometimes we may need to start our own initiative when no one else is working in that area, but more often than not, there are established initiatives that would benefit from our added efforts. He cautions that sometimes we have to compromise when joining another group, but we can keep our beliefs by supporting other groups that help promote all the measures we are concerned with.
  • Strive to avoid contention and never promote it. “This can be difficult when we are involved with moral principles to which we bring a lot of passion.” But it is always worth the effort to be peaceful with those that disagree with us.
  • Our desires to help strengthen other marriages and families in our communities should not come at the expense of our own spouses and children. “Zeal has a way sometimes of overtaking our better judgment.”

We need to make sure we are always putting our best efforts to strengthening our own marriages and families before we help others strengthen theirs.

Linda Waite, a professor of sociology at the University of Chicago, also urges people to speak up.

“I think we have to talk about marriage. It’s not the same as any other family arrangement. It doesn’t bring the same benefits. Pretending that it does is not doing anyone a service…We have to talk about it as an important institution, and hope that as a result of that conversation people will become more aware of the benefits of marriage.”

Hawkins concludes, “When our seasons and opportunities come, we have civic… duties to bear the burden of responsible citizenship. Offering our public gifts in the service of the most fundamental units of a healthy society—marriage and family—will help to preserve our freedom.”

Can we count on you to share the message?


For the full article see: http://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1302&context=marriageandfamilies

 

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Love, Limits, and Latitude: Authoritative Parenting (pt. 2)

The information for this blog post comes from a two-part article by Craig H. Hart that was called “What Children Need from Parents” and was published in the journal of Marriage and Families in 2004. This is part two to the early post on this topic. Click here for Part 1

mom-eskimo-kisses-daughter-on-bike

Limits. What constitutes an appropriate limit depends on the individual child’s disposition and maturity. Many of the family rules can be implicit; they don’t have to be directly stated because it is just what the family always does (wearing your seatbelt in the car or eating dinner as a family). Explicit limits are there to help children “distinguish between mountains and molehills-and [parents should] not make the number of rules overwhelming.” These rules should have logical consequences that are enforced. Reasons for the rules should be explained in advance; “this type of predisposing can ward off misbehavior in young children 60-70% of the time.” Teens should be allowed more autonomy and it is appropriate to work with them as a consultant to help them come up with their own solutions in many situations.

Latitude. Children want to be a part of the decisions that affect them. Allowing them to make decisions within the bounds you have set prepares them for making bigger decisions in the future. “Being willing to negotiate with children and compromise when flexibility is possible-and reasonable-gives them more control over their lives and prepares them for real-world negotiation and compromise.” Children who experience appropriate autonomy are “better at sharing power and understanding others’ viewpoints. They have fewer disputes with their parents and are more respectful of adults in general. They better manage their activities. And, in relationships with peers, they place more emphasis on persuasion and negotiation to get their way.”

Hart also advises on disciplining. He says, “Children learn to develop internal control (learning to make their own wise choices and controlling their own actions accordingly) as they learn to reason through the consequences of their actions, rather than simply being afraid to do something because they’re going to get yelled at or slapped by a parent (external control).” By choosing to reason with our children parents are helping them to be more social and pro-social by helping, sharing, and comforting others more. Children are more accepted by their peers and more likely to think about how their actions will impact others. It is also important to realize that if a child’s misbehavior is out of the ordinary, there may be more to the situation than meets the eye. Parents should take the time to see if there are any other factors that need to be addressed to make sure the disciplinary action taken is effective.

There is no perfect parent; we all make mistakes. Apologizing to our children does not weaken our roles as parents but it “tends to strengthen the relationship to learn how to work together-loving, forgiving and understanding each other.” Apologizing shows children that we are trying to do better just as we are asking them to make improvements. As we strive to do our best as parents, following the principles described above can help our children reach their divine potential.

 

For the full articles see: http://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1088&context=marriageandfamilies

http://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1096&context=marriageandfamilies

Image from: http://m1.herfamily.ie/YToyOntzOjQ6ImRhdGEiO3M6MTkyOiJhOjM6e3M6MzoidXJsIjtzOjEzMDoiaHR0cDovL21lZGlhLWhlcmZhbWlseS5tYXhpbXVtbWVkaWEuaWUuczMuYW1hem9uYXdzLmNvbS93cC1jb250ZW50L3VwbG9hZHMvMjAxNi8wNS8yMzEyMzkxMi9TY3JlZW4tU2hvdC0yMDE2LTA1LTIwLWF0LTEyLjQ4LjMyLnBuZyI7czo1OiJ3aWR0aCI7aTo2NDc7czo2OiJoZWlnaHQiO2k6MzQwO30iO3M6NDoiaGFzaCI7czo0MDoiMDhjOTk0MjQ5ZmZlMGNhYTlhZGNlM2NmNjk4YTNjMTA3ZmNkNjIwNCI7fQ==/screen-shot-2016-05-20-at-124832.png 

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Love, Limits, and Latitude: Authoritative Parenting (pt. 1)

The information for this blog post comes from a two-part article by Craig H. Hart that was called “What Children Need from Parents” and was published in the journal of Marriage and Families in 2004.

mom-reprimanding-son

“Child rearing is so individualistic. Every child is different and unique. What works with one may not work with another. I do not know who is wise enough to say what discipline is too harsh or what is too lenient except the parents of the children themselves, who love them most… Certainly the overarching and undergirding principle is that the discipline of children must be motivated more by love than by punishment.” -James E. Faust

There are many influences on a child’s development. There are even multiple influences that come from the family environment, including marital satisfaction of the parents, sibling relationships and parenting styles. Parents have been found to have a huge impact in children’s development in all domains, including social interactions outside the home. There are four broad types of parenting styles:

  • coercive/authoritarian,
  • permissive,
  • uninvolved, and
  • authoritative.

Authoritative parenting has been found to have the most adaptive outcomes for children.

There are three principles that encompass being an authoritative parent. All children at every age need “an emotional connection with parents (love), regulation (limits), and autonomy (latitude).” Parents must find a balance of these principles for their individual child’s unique strengths and weaknesses. Using these principles “create[s] a positive emotional climate that helps children be more open to parental input and direction.” It helps children better adjust to school, be less aggressive and delinquent, be less likely to use drugs, be more friendly and accepted by peers, and be more capable of moral reasoning and self-control. Here is how parents can better apply these three principles.

Love. Parents need to show love to their children. This builds a foundation for their relationship to grow on. Parents can show affection, praise what their children do well, read to them, and assure them of their love during moments of correction. Parents need to take the time to help their children with their homework, to support them by attending their sporting and musical events, and show an interest in their other activities. Of course, this is not always easy for parents to do as it takes energy, inspiration, dedication, and most of all, TIME!

Nevertheless, parents should guide their children by setting limits and providing correction when necessary; but ultimately, parents should also strive to develop a relationship of friendship with their children as one day children grow into adults. 


For the full articles see: http://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1088&context=marriageandfamilies

http://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1096&context=marriageandfamilies

Image from: https://amberbuddy.com.au/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/authoritative-parenting.jpg 

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Making family meals a priority, and a possibility, again

family-meals

Are family meals worth it?

For as long as I can remember, my family had dinner together.  Whether mom made dinner  or we had take-out, we ate together.  I just assumed it would always be like that.  Then after getting married my husband and I found out it’s a lot harder than it seemed.  At first it was fine, but then it started to feel awkward with just the two of us. Eventually, dinner time moved to the couch accompanied by television.  I have been trying to change this situation. Since our daughter arrived, family dining occurs more often, but it still isn’t routine.  

Family dinners are a good influence on kids.  

The idea of family dining makes sense.  If children are at the dinner table, they are not outside unsupervised on the dark streets.  Teen are less likely to participate in risky behaviors (1) if they have positive communication with their parents.

There are, however, people that think family dinners are a negative influence.   Women’s Studies in Communication asserts that family meals uphold the stereotype of women as caretakers,  They state that this activity encourages mother-blaming, and suppresses maternal voice (2).  Today, many moms have to work away from the home.  However, no alternative is mentioned.  If both parents work, who makes dinner?  The implied alternative to this question is buying meals –  including fast food.   

Additionally a  Dutch study (3) mentions that family meals are often fraught with “rows,” or fights.  Since “fighting with your child is illegal” and “storming out of the room without asking if you can leave the table will get you in trouble…,” (3) family members keep their stress bottled up which can cause harmful elevations in cortisol.

Positive Family meals

These arguments focus on individuals instead of families and they emphasize the negative.  However, there is hope for family dining.

Family meals can help improve communication (4), and lower the risk of becoming overweight (5).  When sitting around the dinner table, keep the dialogue positive and happy to prevent stress.  Instead of relying on one person to make the meal, the family can rally together.  

Preparing food at home, and providing a positive atmosphere will lead to better family meals.

Give family meals a chance to change your home.  The research on both sides suggests that meals in the home can cause big change.  Check out the many Benefits of the Family Table and review our patient information handout on Having A Family Table.  It’s up to you to decide what side of the table your family sits.  


References

1) Yi, S., Poudel, K. C., Yasuoka, J., Palmer, P. H., Yi, S., & Jimba, M. (2010). Role of risk and protective factors in risky sexual behavior among high school students in Cambodia. BMC Public Health, 10(1), 477-484. http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2458/10/477

2) Kinser, A. E. (2017). Fixing Food to Fix Families: Feeding Risk Discourse and the Family Meal. Women’s Studies In Communication, 40(1), 29-47. doi:10.1080/07491409.2016.1207001

3) Newnham, D. (2014). Hard to swallow. Nursing Standard, 28(39), 29.

4) Diamond, A. (2010). Family meals are good for hearts and waistlines. Nursing Standard, 24(24), 28.

5) Part D. Chapter 3: Individual diet and physical activity behavior change: Family shared meals. 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015-scientific-report/08-chapter-3/d3-4.asp

Image

https://static.pexels.com/photos/29682/pexels-photo-29682.jpg

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Encouraging Healthy Body Image in Kids

body-image

Children are amazing at mimicking their parent’s and older sibling’s behaviors. This can be a great thing, if they are seeing positivity and productivity displayed around them. However, when they see negativity, inappropriate behaviors or unrealistic ideals, they will still have tendencies to mimic those behaviors.

It is imperative that parents take on the role as teacher and example. If you don’t, there are others who will.

Common Sense Media conducted a research study in 2015 to better understand the relationship between the media and body image. What they found may seem surprising; but it does, unfortunately, represent many children around us.

  • First, they found that children were aware of what dieting was and may have tried it by the age of 6.
  • Next, 26% of 5-year-old children surveyed said dieting was the appropriate solution for someone who has gained weight.
  • Shockingly enough, they found that by 7 years old, 1 in 4 children have engaged in a dieting practice of some sort.
  • Additionally, they found that child hospitalizations for eating disorders under the age of 12 spiked 112 percent between 1999 and 2006.

Body image may be difficult or even awkward for some parents to openly discuss with their children. But it is so important, and even crucial, that parents discuss and shape their child’s body image so that the media doesn’t. No parent wants to hear their 7-year-old daughter say that she feels fat and overweight, and she needs to go on a diet. It is up to you, as the parent, to let your children know how beautiful and precious their bodies are. Also, they must learn how to take care of their bodies to keep them healthy and strong. Remember that healthy has many different looks, and that is okay.

Parents can help shape their child’s body image by finding and sharing media that promotes positivity, healthy lifestyles, and uplifting environments.

dad-talking-to-son

Do not allow your child to be pulled into the media world that teaches children that ‘real’ men and women look, dress, walk and talk a certain way and that if you are not keeping up, you are inferior. Following are some additional suggestions as to how you, as a parent, can help promote a positive body image for your child.

  • Attempt to avoid the stereotypical female and male characters in the media that your child is exposed to. When you do come across them, talk about them with your child and share your beliefs and values.
  • Dare to challenge beliefs surrounding heavyset and slim characters. Help your kids identify characters that foster positive or negative ideas surrounding weight.
  • Help your children see the differences between actors and celebrities who use their bodies to be healthy and fit or to simply look good for the crowd.

Remember that your beautiful child is growing up in a world that is ever seeking to influence the way children live and what they aspire to be and look like.

Take every precaution to protect your child from unrealistic and harmful ideals so that they can blossom into the wonderful individual they are meant to become.


References:

Tatangelo, G., McCabe, M., Mellor, D., & Mealey, A. (2016). Review article: A systematic review of body dissatisfaction and sociocultural messages related to the body among preschool children. Body Image, 1886-95. doi:10.1016/j.bodyim.2016.06.003

Commonsense Media Research Brief (2015) Children, Teens, Media, and Body Image.  www.commonsensemedia.org/research/children-teens-media-and-body-image

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The Importance of Close Parent-Child Relationships

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How important is the relationship between a parent and a child?

Are there really long term effects for taking time to bond with your child or even neglecting your child?

The answers may seem obvious. Of course the parent-child relationship matters and is critical to a child’s health and well-being. As every  relationship is critical to the overall happiness of the family, a deeper understanding of the importance and effects of these relationships gives parents a greater desire  to bond with their child and a greater understanding of how to go about doing so. 

In a study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family Values, 680 married couples were examined for signs of attachment/detachment behaviors within their relationship.  Research showed that many individuals who had  depression, anxiety and detachment behaviors had previously experienced detached childhood relationships with their parent(s). This history had a high correlation of  depression and frustration between spouses later in life. However, most of those who experienced strong relationships, had experienced closeness as children with their parents.

The study concluded that the parent-child relationship affects attachment security, anxiety and depression in adulthood. No loving parent would desire for their child to face these trials as an adult. Almost all parents would  do anything to prevent their child experiencing depression and anxiety. This is not to say that all anxiety, depression and attachment difficulties are directly related to parental efforts. Rather this study sheds  light on possible ways to help prevent these disorders.

It is crucial that parents create a bond, play with, and have open and close conversation with their child.

In 2008, the Institute for American Values published a study conducted to see if the relationship between father and children made a difference in an adolescent’s life. This particular finding was moving.

Good studies have found that the quality of parenting exhibited by the father as well as the resources fathers bring or don’t bring to their families predict children’s behavior problems, depression, self-esteem, and life-satisfaction. The reach of fathers has been shown to extend to adolescents and young adults, as research shows adolescents function best when their fathers are engaged and involved in their lives.”

Replace the word father with parents and we can still see this finding as truth. Truly, there is no replacement for the relationship between a parent and a child. Parents have the solemn responsibility to care for and nurture their children. This responsibility, if fulfilled, will be beneficial for each child as they grow into adulthood.

Cherish the moments you have with your child. Your child will forever be grateful.


Resources:

Rostad, W. L., & Whitaker, D. J. (2016). The association between reflective functioning and    parent–child relationship quality. Journal Of Child And Family Studies, 25(7), 2164-2177. doi:10.1007/s10826-016-0388-7

Eggebeen, D. (2008).  Do Fathers Matter Uniquely for Adolescent Well-Being? Institute for Marriage and Family Values.  Source: http://www.americanvalues.org/search/item.php?id=11

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