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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!!!

Daily Dose

Teach Your Kids Good Manners

1.15 to read

Spring is always a busy time of year with end of school parties, proms, graduations, and lots of invitations.  These invitations are often sent not only to parents but many times they are sent to the kids as well. Some invitations have a reply card or say “please reply” or RSVP.   

Do your kids know what RSVP means?  Although it is French, surely everyone still knows it means “reply if you please”. Has RSVP been replaced by LOL and OMG? It is a common courtesy to respond to an invitation and one that all children need to learn (maybe some adults as well). 

Over the years I have had to explain this courtesy to my own children. Sometimes they just did not understand why I bugged them to reply in a timely matter.  After looking at the bulletin board where I would put check marks and dates by our response, I would often ask them if they had replied as well? This question was often answered with, “Not yet, trying to decide, or “ They know that I am coming ” or lastly “ I’ll do it later”.  Such answers did not seem to be exactly what I had hoped to hear. Of course, I couldn’t relent until we had closure on this issue and I knew that they had responded.  I was the bothersome mother after all!

For many years they seemed clueless as to head counts and party prep. I would re-iterate that by getting an idea of how many people are going to attend any event the hosts can make sure that there are enough seats for everyone coming, or enough food to eat and drinks for all. Otherwise, you either spend way too much over buying or end of scrounging as you didn’t plan on that many people. “Whatever”, right? 

Well, now that they are older, they were just complaining to me that they had not heard from guests for a party that they were planning. “How do I know how much food to order?”, “How do you rent tables and chairs if you don’t have a head count?”  “Why do people wait till the last minute to reply?”  “Didn’t their parents bug them about replying?”  And finally, music to my ears, “Mom you should write a blog about learning to reply to invitations”! 

So...here it is. Teach your kids (beginning at early ages) how to reply to a party. Have them pick up the phone to reply to the 5 year old birthday party, or learn to write an email response when they are accepting an invitation to attend an event. Teach them to reply in a timely manner, and if something does change, let the hosts know.  Lastly, I still don’t see any reply messages that say “text me if you are coming”, but I am sure that is just around the corner.  

Good manners are ageless and timeless.

Daily Dose

The Dangers of 'Sexting'

If you are a parent of a teen, or even a 'tween, have you heard of "sexting"? If you haven't, you should know about this phenomenon that is happening coast to coast. "Sexting" is a form of text messaging, where racy or explicit sexual images are being sent from cell phone to cell phone. Teens say this is just a form of flirting. Most people would think otherwise.

When you view some of the suggestive and provocative pictures that are being "sexted", it is often embarrassing and some would argue these "sexts" are a form of pornography. A simple picture sent in a suggestive bikini may seem innocent enough until it is sent around an entire school. Unfortunately, many of the pictures are taken without the bikini, showing breasts and nudity. While a young teen may think this picture is only for one set of eyes, many of the pictures are then passed around to classmates, and even beyond that. A recent survey showed that one in five teens have sent or posted provocative photos of themselves. So many teens "sext" before they think and then must face the consequences. The consequences of "sexting" include legal issues about trafficking in child pornography, which most teens haven't even heard of. They are not aware that this is a criminal offense. At the same time, the emotional turmoil that a teen faces after her nude picture has now been passed around her school, may lead to humiliation, depression and even suicide in the case of one teen in Ohio. "Sexting" and cyberbullying are both discussions that every parent needs to have with their child. The dangers of technology can be very real when the technology is not used appropriately. That's your daily dose, we'll chat again tomorrow.

Daily Dose

Toddlers: Tantrums, Time Out & Hoarding

Toddlers & tantrums go hand in hand. Here's how to make time out work for you!When I see my toddler patients, lots of words come to mind.  Busy, active, inquisitive, climbers, impulsive, biters, but never before did the word “hoarding” make me think of a toddler.

During an 18 month old well child visit the biggest discussion I have with parents is related to toddlers behaviors.  While a toddler may do the cutest thing one minute, the next minute they may be laying on the floor kicking and screaming and having a tantrum. Toddlers are truly like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  Parenting a toddler requires a great deal of energy, patience, and consistency.  While many people talk about “the terrible twos” I really think that one of the most difficult stages, as a parent, is from 15 months – 30 months. In other words a long time!! The reason I bring up hoarding stems from a remark from a parent during their child’s 18 month old check up. We had discussed so many topics related to their child and concerns that they had. We discussed how to ignore a tantrum and try to redirect the child after several minutes. We talked about how to begin time out.  I start using time out at around this age when a child has been overtly defiant (yes, it does happen to all of us).  In that case, when the behavior cannot be ignored, I use a small chair in the house and have a kitchen timer handy. I tell the child that they have “misbehaved by ----------------“ (fill in the blank) and that must sit in the time out chair for 1 minute. I typically recommend 1 minute per year of age.  If your toddler will not sit in the chair, then you go behind the chair and wrap your arms around the child (like a piece of human rope).  This way there is no eye contact, and you can restrain the child in the chair.  Of course, the child will be crying while this is going on as they are not happy about being held in a chair. Once the minute is over, go back around to the front of the chair, get down on your child’s level and explain again why they had to sit in time out. Over time (sometimes days, even months) your child will begin to understand that they sit in time our when they have misbehaved and they will learn to sit in the chair alone.  The concept of time out is useful throughout childhood, as you will see when you “send your teen to their room one day”, which is another variation on the same theme. So, at the end of this fairly lengthy visit the father says, “I have one more question Dr. Sue”. “Our toddler puts all of her stuffed animals in her crib. She plays with them and then just adds them to the crib so that by the end of the day the crib is covered with her stuffed animals and dolls.”  He paused for a minute and then said, “Is this a sign that she will be a hoarder?”   I thought I had heard it all but this was a new one!!  I started to laugh as I thought of those reality TV shows I had heard about with hoarders. I reassured the Dad that it is quite normal for a toddler to “hoard” all of their toys in one place. Their crib, or a favorite old cardboard box, or under the bed etc.  They like to “have control” over their toys, and this may be a way that their child “knows where her animals are”. I could not stop laughing the rest of the day as I thought about this. I just hope that the behavior modification discussions did not make him think he needed to “redirect” her toddler hoarding. This behavior sounds perfectly normal to me. I am still giggling about hoarding, very cute. That's your dialy dose for today.  We'll chat again tomorrow! Send your question to Dr. Sue!

Daily Dose

Teens and Sexting

1.30 to read

Sexting, the combination of the words sex and texting, is the practice of electronically sending explicit images or messages from on person to another. There has been a lot of media attention in recent years looking at legal cases involving teens and sexting as well as cases of bullying or harassment of the teen who’s picture is spread beyond the intended recipient.  

But data on teen sexting has been lagging and different authors site numbers somewhere between 1% of teens to 30% of teens who have engaged in sexting.  There is now some new “real” data out of The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston that not only looks at the prevalence of sexting among high school students, the study also looked as the relationship between sexting and sex and risky sexual behaviors. This was a really interesting study! 

The study looked at 948 high school students from 7 public schools in Houston area, over a 2 year period.  Participants ranged in age from 14-19 years and were in either 10th or 11th grade.  

So, 28% (that’s more than 1 in 4) of teens reported having sent a naked picture of themselves via text or e-mail (sexting).  There were no differences between the number of boys and girls who sent a sext. However, 68% of girls reported having been asked to send a sext, compared with 42% of boys.  But, 46% of boys had asked someone to sext compared to 21% of girls.  Of those who were asked to send a sext, girls (27%) more often reported being “bothered a great deal” by this than boys (2%).  Almost all girls and half of the boys were “bothered a little bit” by having been asked to sext. 

Age also played a role in sexting with the proportion of teens who reported having been asked to send a sext peaking at 16-17 years of age (61%) and declining in those 18 years and older (53%). 

Lastly, for both boys and girls, teens who had “sexted” were also more likely to have begun dating and to have had sex than those who did not sext. The study also showed that teen girls who engaged in “sexting” also engaged in more high risk sexual behaviors, admitting to multiple partners and the use of drugs or alcohol before sex. 

Yes this is yet another topic for discussion among parents and their teens and also for pediatricians to discuss with their adolescent patients.  Office visits keep getting longer;  discussing sexting may also be a way for doctors to discuss sexual behaviors with teen patients.   

Your Child

Tragedy & Children

1:45 to read

Thanks for all the wonderful comments about my recent interview on CNN with Vinnie Politan. If you missed it, the topic was talking to children who may have witnesses a traumatic event.  Unfortunately, as you are well aware, there are numerous tragic and traumatic events which occur across our country (and around the world) and at times, children may be witnesses to these events.  With that being said, how do you discuss these tragedies with a child?

As an example, the tragic death of an acrobatic airplane pilot at the Kansas City air shows last week. Many, including children of all ages, viewed this event.  I think the most important thing to remember when talking to a child about a trauma or tragedy is to use words that are appropriate for the child’s age and vocabulary and to acknowledge your own feelings as well.  They need to know that you too were scared, sad, upset or anxious about the event. Ask them how they felt and listen to the words that they use as you may use those words again when talking to your child.

While every child is different you can often follow their cues as to how much and how detailed a discussion to have, and when and how to bring the topic up again. Some children are talkers and want to discuss things at length, while others may be quieter and take some time to absorb the information. Don’t force the discussion.  A parent knows their children and the discussion may/will be different for each child and will be further impacted by their ages.

For young children, it is also important to let them know that “Mommy and Daddy” are there and will take care of them and protect them, but at the same time bad things sometimes happen. That is why parents take precautions and are responsible (like holding hands when crossing the street, or wearing a helmet etc).But, if something does happen it is so important to validate your child’s feelings while at the same time teaching your child coping skills and resilience.  

If your child does view a traumatic event it is not unusual for them go through a period when they are afraid of separation, or have nightmares etc. They sometimes develop somatic complaints like tummy aches, headaches, and non specific complaints of “I just don’t feel well”. This is normal, but you should watch for a child who seems to “be stuck” with symptoms long after the event. In some cases a professional therapist may be helpful.

Lastly, don’t let them revisit the event. By that I mean keep the TV off for awhile, and monitor the internet so they are not watching constant images of the same event (like the falling of the twin towers on 9/11). With so many amateur videos of traumatic events being shown “on screen” 24/7 if your child sees these images over and over, it is as if they are reliving the experience each time.  It sometimes may feel as if we become addicted to watching it.  It was nice “in the olden days” when there were not constant images on screen to remind us of a picture that often fades in our own minds.

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

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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

Toddler Behavior

1.30 to read

Do you have a toddler? If so you are in the throes of some difficult, albeit sometimes funny, yet inappropriate behavior. It happens to every parent...suddenly their precious child turns into Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  Somewhere around 15-18 months, you will most likely see this change in behavior. Although most books refer to the “terrible twos” I really think it is the “me no wanna” 18-30 month old. 

“Me no wanna” is the phrase we often used around our house, and it was coined when the boys were toddlers. It just seemed like the best line when our sweet toddler would rather have a tantrum than do the simple task that we wanted him to do. Example: please put your toy back in the box. “Me no wanna”, I would prefer to fall to the floor and scream.   

How is it that your typically sweet 20 month old child can be in middle of playing nicely and then suddenly seems possessed as they fling themselves to the floor kicking and screaming?  What is the matter?  Are they having a seizure? Or is it that “something” just didn’t seem right to them and they are angry and frustrated???  How can they change behavior so quickly.?   (hint, foreshadowing for those teen years). 

You never know with a toddler what kind of answer you will get when you say something as easy as “let’s get on your shoes to go outside”. Sometimes they happily run get the shoes, bring them to you, sit down and the shoes go on licitly split.  The next time they get the shoes, throw them across the room, lay on the floor and look at you like “me no wanna”. 

Trust me, you are not a “bad” parent, you are just living through some really challenging parenting. It is exhausting at times, but while this age is typically difficult it is some of your most important parenting. This is really the beginning of behavior modification.  Your brilliant toddler is testing you, this may be the first time you the parents understand why everyone talks about boundaries and consequences. 

Some children also express their “me no wanna” by acting out with hitting, biting and kicking. Again, very inappropriate behavior. Your job is to change that behavior by using time out, or taking away a toy or even putting the child to bed early.. There are so many ways to start letting your toddler know that there are consequences for misbehaving, and that tantrums don’t work. 

I am in throes of “me no wanna” again, only this time it is with a puppy! Seems very similar to me.

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