It’s easy as a parent to see your life as a matter of clear tradeoffs: time spent for yourself means less time spent on your children. And yet, we all know, deep down, that it isn’t that simple, that we need a little time for ourselves to be at our best, and that our best is precisely what we owe ours kids. But sometimes we need someone to tell us the obvious.
One of the obvious conclusions of the growing field of mind-body medicine is that our emotions affect us physically, triggering or accelerating very “real,” very physical medical conditions. But what is not always as obvious is that our emotions can just as clearly affect others physically, especially if those others are our children.
Clearly there’s a lot more research to be done, but David Code’s new book Kids Pick Up on Everything: How Parental Stress is Toxic to Kids and the studies to which he refers touches on precisely how, and how much, the emotional life of parents can be detrimental to children. We all know that parental stress harms our children, but Code alleges – and cites compelling evidence – that our stress is medically damaging to our children, and may be the hidden cause of the recent rise in diseases/disorders such as ADHD, autism, asthma and diabetes . The message to take from this isn’t that “it’s all your fault.” On the contrary, Code’s observations are potentially empowering: if our own emotional turmoil is capable, as he believes, of triggering or aggravating medical conditions, then think how much effect we might have by taking steps to ensure our own emotional wellbeing. The message is clear, that stress-management for busy parents isn’t self-indulgent. It’s a priority, perhaps even a duty.
For a review of the book and an interview with the author, have a look at this recent article by Lisa Belkin in the Huffington Post.
This is a wonderful look at the current culture of teens. It shows us a world in which materialism, disconnection, perfectionism and a great deal of pressure to achieve can combine to create kids who feel empty and stressed. We all want our kids to set their own bar high, but in doing too much to assure their success we may set them up for more significant failures. A good study of culture and context, this books also provides a clear statement that how we connect with our kids is what really matters. Click here to visit the author’s website.
How do you keep your teenagers from drinking? According to a study summed up in this article from the New York Times “Motherload” blog, you don’t. Assessing different parenting styles on a range of accountability and warmth, the study found that the likelihood of teens drinking wasn’t influenced by the parenting style. However, the liklihood that they would drink heavily was affected. The children of “strict” and authoritarian parents were twice as likely to binge drink as those with warm, permissive parents. Those least likely to drink: the children of parents who are warm but accountable, ie who insist on knowing where their kids are and who they are with.
Advances are being made all the time in the field of mental health and its related disciplines. In the following article posted at True/Slant.com you will find a summary of ten of the most interesting findings made in 2009. I found particularly interesting the findings of a recent study on the effect of apologies on children. Not surprsingly, apologizing to children really does matter. Many parents are reluctant to apologize to their children for fear of showing “weakness,” but the data seems to suggest that an apology serves to validate the child’s sense of right and wrong, and to reassure him/her that the world is by and large a just and predictable place.