The most obvious of miracles are the ones right in front of us. Having a baby — producing a person– is a mind-blowing process. Just think of how many things in the delicate, microscopic machinery of the human body must go RIGHT for a baby to be born. But it’s easy get lost in the daily drudgery of life. We fail to appreciate the beauty of what our bodies have done.
So check this out: a 9 minute Ted Weekends video post that shows — in incredible detail — the journey our baby goes through to become a person. The next time fussy toddlers, crabby bosses, or terrible traffic get me down, I try to remember this video. From a single cell to trillions in just 9 months, it’s a miracle that dwarfs life’s little annoyances.
Mom of Four, Parenting Expert
I recently wrote about amazing findings showing that stress in early life actually causes DNA damage.
Researchers at Duke have taken the next step, finding the exact receptor that is disabled by chronic stress, resulting in genetic damage.
This adds strength to what I believe about making sure our kids are brought up in Good Enough environments: We already know that a LITTLE bit of stress is a good thing. It toughens us up and helps us learn new lessons. But too much stress, over a long period of time, is a bad thing. That’s why children brought up in chronically abusive or deprived environments fare so poorly. And these folks at Duke have found a glimpse into exactly how that works, on a molecular level. Cool stuff.
Their research is connected to how our cells are damaged in a variety of ways — including by the aging process — and I know I’m not the only 40-something parent out there hoping science will help us push the envelope of healthy life way out into the future, giving us more time with our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
Do you think science will offer us a cure for stress and aging — in our lifetimes? I hope so!
It took me over a year, but I finally started to understand the fabulousness that is Twitter. And no, it’s not because I want you to know what I had for lunch (although I had some amazing Indian food today). It’s because I meet a lot of interesting people on Twitter, and am directed to some fascinating info. The geek in me LOVES the immediate access I get via Twitter to all sorts of interesting infant research. But I do realize that most of you don’t share my fascination with primary-source research — you just want to get through your parenting day with your wits reasonably intact. And that’s why I’m here — to help sort through all the clutter, and show you what I think is TRULY interesting, relevant, and important to parents.
So I’m starting a new category on BabyShrink — BabyGeek. It will give me the opportunity to use more than 140 characters to help interpret the most current findings from the world of infant and child development, and the mind-boggling findings from brain and neuroscience. I hope I can make it all interesting for you, too.
And now, for my first moment of BabyGeek:
This heartbreaking study confirms what shrinks like me have long suspected: The mind and body are closely linked, even from the first months of life. This study shows how deeply linked: Traumatic emotional experiences such as institutional care actually damage the child’s DNA. Scientists have been investigating how the length of the telomere (the cap that protects the ends of the DNA strand) is related to health and longevity — and the orphans in the study had significantly shorter telomeres. Here’s the study report.
In college, we used to argue about “nature vs. nurture”. Now, we know it’s nature AND nurture — down to our DNA.
I’m waiting for the research that shows longer telomeres in babies from “good enough” homes. I wonder what other aspects of parental care will show impacts — positive or negative — on DNA?
What are your thoughts?
And I hope to see you on Twitter! Follow me here.
Preserving the meaning of the holidays is tricky with so much pressure — pressure to BUY, pressure to TRAVEL, and pressure to JUGGLE HOLIDAY EVENTS. The obligations start to pile up, and pretty soon we can’t wait until it’s all over.
Here in Hawaii, we’ve learned something about simplicity: Simple is better. Not always easier — but better. As we’re being bombarded with impossible holiday expectations, keep this in mind — babies and young children don’t have ANY expectations for the holidays. Everything is new to them — even more reason to keep it simple. They can only absorb so much before they go into overload and meltdown. Admiring decorations, singing songs, and extra time with family are all it takes to make a great holiday for a young child — and make it easier on us, too.
Because kids — especially young kids — take their cues directly from us. So a successful holiday is mainly about OUR mood, and how it affects our kids. If we’re stressed about travel schedules, dreading family reunions, and scrambling to get “the best” presents, our kids will absorb THOSE feelings about the holidays. On the other hand, if we can relax and enjoy the time off — cooking, playing, and having fun with holiday rituals — our kids will absorb THOSE feelings. Which sounds better?
Consider These Simpler Holiday Options:
* Fewer presents — more thoughtfully written (and decorated) cards
* Fewer “junk” holiday treats — more time cooking real meals together
* Less money spent on toys — more time volunteering for those in need
* Fewer holiday parties — more family “cocooning” time
Aloha and Happy Holidays,
Lately I’ve been getting a lot of requests for expert comments on baby stuff: parenting mags who want info for their stories. I’ve got a love-hate relationship with those magazines. They recycle the same old stuff, and aren’t in-depth enough to get down into the heart of the issue. So parents are left with a handy-dandy little checklist that MIGHT work with their child (but just as likely won’t) — and they’re left doubting themselves and their parenting ability (or the development of their child.) “If National Parent Mag says this should work, why doesn’t it work with my child?”
Most of the writers are simply learning right along with their readers. I recently spent 20 minutes explaining to one writer why sleep cycles (and parents’ approaches to sleep) should change over time. Meaning that a 3-month-old is a totally different animal than an 18-month old, and therefore, responds way differently to sleep “training”. There’s no quick, “one size fits all” sleep-training answer. It hadn’t occurred to this writer of a major parenting mag (a parent of a toddler herself) that since the psychological needs of a young child vary over time, so must our approaches to the various issues that come up.
This has me thinking of the simple but powerful ways that parents can consider the psychological development of their babies and young children (which really is the whole point of BabyShrink). I’m working on a book on the subject, which allows me more room to explore the issue, but for the time being I’m left with the same problem that parenting mag writers have: cramming a huge subject into a limited amount of space. So what I’ll do is list some “thinking points” for you to consider in your parenting, and we can discuss further as you have questions:
BabyShrink’s Thinking Points For Parents:
* Your baby’s psychological needs change over time. 0-6 months is about getting oriented to the world and trying to feel safe in it. 9-12 months is a whole different ball game, and leads into toddlerhood, which is different yet again (check out “annoying toddler behaviors” under my Categories below and to the right). Vary your approach as your child goes through each stage.
* Psychological development doesn’t follow a straight line. There will be “regression”, and there will be progress. This is normal and expected.
* The fact that your young child CAN do something doesn’t mean that she WILL do it. HAVING a skill doesn’t mean your child is psychologically ready to USE it. Readiness to sleep through the night, potty training, talking, and most other issues have strong psychological components — handling that aspect artfully, helps your child navigate the issue more completely, and with less chance of later problems.
* Your child’s temperament is a major Wild Card here. What works for an “easy” baby might be worthless for your “fussy” baby. An “intense” toddler needs a totally different approach than a “shy” one. A “bold” preschooler needs a different approach than a more “sensitive” one.
Randomly trying new parenting “solutions” can be really frustrating. Understanding the psychology of your child, and making a parenting plan based on these “Thinking Points”, is the key to finding your way with your child. If you want to to know more about how psychological development affects your parenting, and how it can best be handled given the unique temperament of your child, there are lots of ways to learn more. Click around my site, Twitter me your questions @BabyShrink, comment here, or email me at BabyShrink@gmail.com for Parent Coaching.