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Parenting

Kids Benefit With Older Moms

2:00

Many women are waiting till they are older to have their first child, but their offspring may be the one that reaps the most benefit, according to a new study from Denmark.

Older mothers are less likely to scold or punish their young children, and those children tend to have fewer behavioral, social and emotional problems, the study suggests.

According to researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark, older moms tend to have more stable relationships, are more educated, and have more wealth and resources.

"We know that people become more mentally flexible with age, are more tolerant of other people and thrive better emotionally themselves," researcher Dion Sommer said in a university news release.

One theory as to why older mothers may make better parents is that they tend to be more psychologically mature.

Sommer noted, “that may explain why older mothers do not scold and physically discipline their children as much."

This type of upbringing may contribute to a more positive environment to grow up in.

In the study, the investigators looked at data from a random sample of just over 4,700 Danish mothers.

Among their findings: older moms generally resorted less to verbal and physical punishment than younger moms did — though those findings did get a little wobbly at the 15-year point.

The children of older mothers also had fewer behavioral, social and emotional problems than kids of younger mothers, at least at the 7- and 11-year-old points, while adolescence again seemed to muddy things up. The study controlled for factors like income and education, and attributed the results mostly to the greater patience and steadiness that comes to adults as they age.

Other studies, pointed out in a TIME Health article, have shown benefits for older moms, including:

Older moms live longer: react-text: 234 According to a 2016 study, of 28,000 U.S. women, those who had their first child after age 25 were 11% likelier to live to age 90 than those who became mothers younger. A 2014 study took this even further, finding that women who gave birth after age 33 were 50% likelier to live to age 95 than women who had their last child when they were 29 or younger. One caveat — and it’s a big one: the cause-and-effect still has not been determined, so it’s possible the older moms were simply healthier to begin with.

Their kids are taller and smarter. According to a 2016 study published in Population and Development Review. The investigators surveyed 1.5 million men and women in Sweden and found that those born to older mothers were more physically fit, had better grades when they were in school and had at least a small height advantage over people born to younger mothers. Again, causation was uncertain, allowing for the possibility that mothers who started off healthier and were able to have kids later may have simply passed those robust genes onto their children. Demographics — especially regarding income and education — may have also been at work. Wealthier moms with higher power jobs are likelier to have the financial flexibility to delay childbearing, bringing them into the cohort of older moms. More money can also mean better nutrition. Still, 1.5 million is an impressive sample group.

Older moms have more energy than you’d think: A study of mothers who had babies via egg donation after age 50 — well and truly beyond the point at which most women consider conceiving — found that they had levels of energy and physical function similar to women who had babies in their 30s and 40s.

So there you have it, women who are considering waiting a little while to start a family can do as well or better than younger women raising children, depending on their general health and outlook.

Many experts advise women not to wait too long to have children, due to declining fertility and increased risk of problems such as miscarriage, preterm birth and birth defects.

"However, when estimating the consequences of the rising maternal age, it's important to consider both the physical and psychosocial pros and cons," Sommer said.

The Denmark study was published recently in the European Journal of Developmental Psychology.

Story sources: Robert Preidt, HealthDay reporter, http://www.webmd.com/parenting/news/20170323/older-mothers-may-raise-better-behaved-kids-study-suggests

Jeffrey Kluger, http://time.com/4709403/older-mother-benefits/

 

Daily Dose

Breaking Bad Habits

1:15 to read

Do any of your children bite their nails or suck their thumbs? If so, are you always saying, “take your fingers out of your mouth, they are dirty”, or “if you keep biting your nails you will get sick due to all of those germs on your fingers”!  I was guilty of saying those very things to my own children, and I also remember being a nail biter and my mother saying the same thing to me.

Well, who would have thought that a study just released today in the journal Pediatrics might make us parents eat our own words (it wouldn’t be the first time).  The study, “Thumb-Sucking, Nail-Biting and Atopic Sensitization, Asthma and Hay Fever” suggests that “childhood exposure to microbial organisms reduces the risk of developing allergies”.  Who knew that there might be something so positive coming from a “bad habit”.  

This study was done in New Zealand and followed over 1,000 children born between 1972-1973 (dark ages) whose parents reported that they either bit their nails or sucked their thumbs at 5,7,9 and 11 years old. The participants were then checked at ages 13 and again at 32 years old to look for an allergic reaction ( by skin prick testing) against at least one common allergen.  And guess what…at 13 years of age the prevalence of an allergic reaction was lower among those children who HAD sucked their thumbs or bitten their nails.  Incredibly the the findings persisted almost 20 years later!  This study even looked at cofounding factors including sex, parental history of allergies, pet ownership, breast feeding and parental smoking… none of which played a role. 

So, while not advocating for children to suck their thumbs or bite their nails (which unfortunately I did until high school when I decided to have nails to polish) there may be a silver lining….a protective effect against allergies that persists into adulthood. 

Lemonade out of lemons!!!

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Daily Dose

Tummy Aches

1:30 to read

I am getting a lot of phone calls and texts with concerns about  tummy aches. I have even started seeing patients in the office with complaints of “my tummy hurts”, and we are just in the first week of school. I know that school nurses are dealing with this common complaint as well.   Amazingly, I don’t see very many complaints of tummy aches during the “lazy days of summer”…but once school starts they seem to become more prevalent.

Don’t get me wrong…while the tummy aches are real and painful, they are usually not due to anything serious.  In many cases I see,  the abdominal discomfort may be due to a bit of anxiety and stress that often comes as children get back into the classroom.  While the child may not be aware of “stress”,  their body does sense it and the gut responds with abdominal pain. 

The children that I am already seeing are all healthy and growing well. They do not appear to be “ill” when I see them, but will complain that their tummy hurts. When I have them point to where the pain is, they typically point right around their belly button (periumbilical).  If asked to point to the one place where it “hurts the most”  they typically still cannot localize it…it’s just all over! Having generalized pain is typically a good sign, rather than having point tenderness in one area.  Upon further questioning they do not have a fever, have not had vomiting or diarrhea, DO NOT wake up in the middle of the night with abdominal pain and often cannot remember if they “pooped“ today or yesterday but usually swear that their “poop” is “normal” . (I am not always sure about that - stool history in kids is quite hit and miss!) 

A few of the children say that eating makes their tummy ache worse while others report it feels better if they eat. They typically are not having issues with a specific food.  (It also depends what they are given to eat - often they will eat their favorite food if given the opportunity).  

For some of the children the pain is “bad enough” that they come home from school, but once home their parents report that after an hour or so they seem better.  Other children stay in school, but the minute a parent picks them up they start saying “my tummy hurt all day at school”!  

I remember that one of my sons often had tummy aches during the school year and we were talking about it the other night (he is now an adult).  He says he remembers being worried about school and “hiding” in the morning when it was time to go to school (I would be looking all over for him as his older brother was already out the door, and anxious that he would not get to school on time,  while I had the younger brother on my hip as I searched the house).   Talk about getting a stomach ache…mine was in knots by the time I would get to work.  It would only be several hours later when I would get the phone call from the school nurse that he was there with a tummy ache.  He now says that he remembers that by the time he was 8 years old it all just changed and it went away. 

Many times all it takes is a little reassurance that the tummy ache is not serious. I tell the children that everything on their exam is normal which is a good thing. Sometimes it seems to help a tummy ache if I prescribe the child some extra fiber and maybe a Tums  a good source of calcium too). Who knows if it is placebo effect… but just by doing something they feel a bit of relief. The one thing I do know…they need to keep going to school and it usually gets better once they are settled back into a school routine.  

 

Daily Dose

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

1:30 to read

Many of the patients that I see who have problems with attention and focus as well as other behavioral and learning issues have been started on all sorts of different medications. For some children their medications seem to be “working well”. But, for some children it has been difficult to find the “right” medication to alleviate all of their symptoms.  Studies have shown that anywhere from 10%- 30% of children with ADHD do not respond favorably to stimulant medications. Therefore,  it is not uncommon for their parents to inquire about the use of alternative or complementary medications. In several cases their parents have already started “dietary supplements”, which at times they are reluctant to admit to, or ask for my opinion.  

Interestingly, there is recent data regarding dietary supplements that parents and pediatricians should be paying attention to…and open to discussing.  A study that was presented last fall at the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry showed that omega-3’s “could augment the response in children aged 7-14 years who were receiving psychotherapy for depression and bipolar disorders”. There have been  studies as well that have shown “significant improvements with Omega-3’s relative to placebo for problems including aggression as well as depression and anxiety symptoms”.  There are also numerous studies looking at ADHD symptom improvement in those using Omega-3’s, and again the results have been mixed, made even more difficult by the fact that ADHD is a subjective diagnosis.  

Another issue that requires more study is how these fatty acids actually work within the body and brain. Omega-3’s are an important building block of the brain and it is present in the brain's cell membranes, where it is thought to facilitate the transmission of neural signals.  Current thought is that these fatty acids may change the cell membrane fluidity and may also have anti-inflammatory effects….but a lot of research continues on the issue of mechanism of action. 

Several of the studies looked at dosage of the Omega 3 fatty acid supplements and “it seemed that there were more positive trials related to higher daily doses of  certain omega 3 fatty acids including eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA).  There need to be further studies to address the amount and ratio of these Omega-3’s as they are used for supplements. 

So while the research continues as to the effectiveness of Omega 3’s on focus, mood, behavior and learning it is important for all children to consume enough Omega-3 fatty acids in their diet. Eating fatty fish a few times a week would be beneficial for the health of all children - and the decision to supplement beyond that may be a topic for discussion with your own physician. 

 

Daily Dose

Marketing Healthy Foods to Kids

1:15 to read

The marketing of foods to children continues to be a hot topic.  As any parent knows…by the time your child is 3, 4 or 5 years old…they can often point to the box of sugary cereal with their favorite cartoon character on it, or identify a sign (McDonalds, Chic-Fil-A, Pizza) although they are not yet reading.  Companies are very clever when it comes to marketing…especially to children who drive a lot of consumer choices.

But, a recent article in Pediatrics shows how marketing may also drive healthy food choices. The study entitled, “Marketing Vegetable in Elementary School Cafeterias to Increase Uptake”, looked at the number of students who chose fresh vegetables from the salad bar at 10 elementary school cafeterias in a large school district over a six-week period.

The study included four different groups. In the first group the schools displayed vinyl banners with branded cartoon vegetable characters. These banners were then wrapped around the salad bar bases. The characters displayed “super human” strength related to eating vegetables (the Popeye of my generation - with his spinach).  The second group of schools showed short television segments which had vegetable characters delivering healthy nutritional advice. In the third group of schools both the salad bar banners and TV segments were used to promote healthy nutrition and food choices.  The fourth group was the control group and received no intervention.  The intervention schools also had decals with the vegetable characters placed on the floor which directed the children to the salad bars.

The results?  Nearly twice as many students ate vegetables from the salad bar when they were exposed to the banners.  More than 3 times as many students who were exposed to both banners and TV segments went to the salad bar (more girls than boys ). Interestingly, the marketing campaign also increased the number of students who chose a vegetable serving in the regular lunch line as well. 

So, it seems that branded marketing strategies may be used in a positive way to promote healthier food choices among young children.  Now we just have to get the advertisers to change some of their branded messaging aimed at young children from the “junk” to the healthy foods, as we have data to show that kids will choose good foods…especially if their super heroes like it too!

Daily Dose

Kids Learn Tech Skills Before Life Skills

New study days that young children are learning how to use a an computer or Smartphone BEFORE they know how to ride a bike!Did you happen to see the new study which was just released by software maker AVG Technologies?  The company solicited 2,200 mothers to answer a survey looking at skills their children have; riding a bike or tying a shoe as well as those very important early childhood skills such as how to use an iPad or Smartphone!

While 21% of 4-5 year olds knew how to use a Smartphone or iPad application, only 14% of those same kids could tie their shoes. For children 2-5 years, 69% could operate a computer mouse, 58% could play a computer game but only 52% knew how to ride a bike (I am assuming that means pedaling a tricycle or a bike with training wheels for that age?). Seems incredible to me that more kids have computers than tricycles?  Also, 25% of 2-5 yr olds could open a Web browser, only 20% knew how to swim.  Technology is definitely changing the world, but is it all beneficial? The CEO of AVG Technologies commissioned the survey to show how young children are interacting with technology. He emphasized that parents need to be educating their young children about their online world and need to be promoting internet/online safety at very young ages. It used to be “when do I have the sex talk” now it is being replaced with ”how soon do I need to talk about online safety and technology?”. Obviously, if one looks at this study, the latter needs to come much sooner than one might think.   If you don’t teach children online safety early on, they might just find “the sex talk” online anyway, even before they can perform some very basic life skills like writing their own name. But the most disturbing aspect of this study is that it suggests that our children are way too wired and may be missing out on simple, yet important life skills. I myself have seen many a two year old open their parent’s iPad and turn on a movie while in the exam room.   They can recognize different icons and switch between applications but are not yet capable of talking in complete sentences. Some of these children are the same ones who at two years are not yet putting themselves to sleep at night, cannot sleep through the night and still have a bottle or pacifier!  Some parents are convinced that their child may not be capable of mastering these normal developmental milestones, while at the same time are thrilled about their child’s computer skills. Seems a little mixed up to me. Priorities sometimes get confused. As I have discussed many times before, it is important for children to have time to explore, create and use their imagination, without the benefit of constant technology.  I can remember when Velcro tennis shoes came out and our boys wanted those shoes. But, before succumbing to Velcro we felt it was important to learn to tie a shoe. Once that skill was mastered, Velcro shoes became a favorite, even if just for a while. Of course, as with many things, the Velcro lost its allure and they were back to tying shoes by middle school.  The basics have staying power. Technology is important and will continue to be so, but what if the computer is “down” and you need to write a story with pencil and paper, or draw a picture without the benefit of a computer screen. There are certainly many life skills to be mastered, the list is too long. What about pumping a swing, jumping rope, playing ball, and just being a kid.  The race to teach kids technology and to help them compete in our constantly “wired” world may be detrimental to a child’s physical and emotional health. We as parents need to remember to “turn off the technology” and get back to basics. There is time for both. What do you think? Leave your comments below.

Daily Dose

Feeling the Holiday Stress

1:15 to read

I can feel the excitement of the holidays in the air. Stress is probably one of the worst things for our health, but we often don't realize how much it affects us. Stress also affects people of all ages so young children may experience stress as well as adults, and everyone in between. Stress may manifest itself in so many ways you can't even count them but in pediatrics the most common things seem to be headaches, tummy aches, difficulty concentrating and sleeping too.

I thought all kids could fall asleep at night, but the longer I practice the more I realize that kids have problems falling asleep, just like adults. They worry about what went on in their day or what they have to do tomorrow just like we parents do. It could be a test they have to take, or a friend they are concerned about, or the things they overheard their parent's discussing that day. Those little ears are listening all of the time. How can they hear whispers behind closed doors when they can't hear "take out the trash"?

Besides trouble sleeping, children will often complain about non-specific headaches and tummy aches. They are always there during the day, but never awaken them at night (at least once they fall asleep).

The other interesting thing is that these tummy aches and headaches will get better over holidays and the summer without doing anything. Why is that? The stress of schedules and school is gone and miraculously those aches and pains vanish too. So during the next week before the holidays and the end of school and the myriad of events that will happen, try to lessen the family stress and enjoy the season. It's always easier said than done. That's your daily dose, we'll chat again tomorrow.

Daily Dose

Breath-holding & Fainting

2.00 to read

Have you ever fainted?  I bet you may have not realized how common fainting is in the pediatric age group?  I know this from my own children (yes, I had 2 “fainters” and boys no less) as well as from many of my patients.

The medical term for fainting is syncope, and it really is common among children. It starts during the toddler years with breath-holding spells.  Many in this age group (up to 50%) will hold their breath when they are hurt or angry.

When a child holds their breath while crying (you can just see it happening in front of you) they will often turn a bit blue and “pass out”. This is a type of fainting. This can be very scary for parents who have never seen their precious child have such an attitude and then hold their breath over not getting the cookie? Yes, this is a normal part of being a toddler! They are very emotional and labile at this age (foreshadowing for teen years?) and most toddlers don’t have a lot of language yet, so when they get mad or frustrated they just SCREAM! But, while screaming, the child forgets to take a breath, and then the brain and autonomic nervous system takes over and the breath holding leads to fainting.

The breath holding spell, as scary as it is, is just a form of fainting. It will not hurt your child, but it may take your breath away!

My advice? Try not to pay attention to your child if they begin having breath-holding spells. It may be hard to “ignore” the first two or three, but these “spells” usually last for months (maybe years) and you do not need to rush to your child when they hold their breath. By calling attention to the event you may inadvertently reinforce the behavior. As a child gets older, the breath holding will stop (but not the tantrums?) and there will be new behaviors to conquer. Do you have a breath-holder? How do you cope? Let us know!

That's your daily dose for today. We'll chat again tomorrow.

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What can you do if your child stinks?

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