Being a parent is no walk in the park (despite your many Sunday afternoons possibly spent in a park). It seems there’s always some new bestselling book on parenting you’re supposed to read, a new technique you’re supposed to try, or tried-and-true wisdom from your parents you’re supposed to follow. It can be difficult to keep everything straight, much less stay up-to-date with current research on your child’s development. So for a quick guide to the latest findings, here are three studies you should know about when it comes to keeping your kid healthy.
1. Be wary of perfectionism
Every parent believes his kid is perfect. But if a child puts too much weight on perfectionism, it could be detrimental later in life.
A study published by the Society for Personal and Social Psychology found that not all types of perfectionism are bad. After analyzing the findings from 43 previous studies from the past 20 years, the researchers determined there are two types of perfectionism: “perfectionistic strivings” and “perfectionistic concerns.”
“Perfectionistic strivings” can actually be useful in an individual’s development. It involves the ability to set high standards for oneself as well as work toward goals in a positive and proactive way. When these types of perfectionists reach their goals, they are able to maintain an internal sense of accomplishment that is then a motivator for future success.
On the other hand, children who have “perfectionist concerns” are always worried they’ll mess us, let people down, or not reach their own unreachable standards. This type of thinking can lead to depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and even early mortality. According the lead researcher, Andrew Hill, “People need to learn to challenge the irrational beliefs that underlie perfectionistic concerns by setting realistic goals, accepting failure as a learning opportunity, and forgiving themselves when they fail.”
If you notice your child exhibiting signs of perfectionism, whether it’s of the strivings or concerns variety, consider sitting them down for a discussion. We’ve all heard the “nobody’s perfect” speech countless times, so rather than feeding your kids clichés, remind them that failure will inevitably happen and that’s OK. What’s important is learning from our mistakes, accepting our flaws, and most importantly forgiving ourselves when we aren’t perfect.
2. Picky eating could indicate bigger issues
Is your child impossible to please when it comes to mealtime? Do they complain about anything you put on your plate and often would rather go hungry than eat something they aren’t pleased with? If yes, this could be a red flag for bigger psychological problems down the road. Most parents consider their kid’s picky eating a phase that he or she will eventually outgrow. While this is sometimes the case, severe picky eating could also be a sign of serious childhood issues like depression and anxiety.
According to a study published in the journal Pediatrics, in the 2 to 6 age range, more than 20% of kids are selective eaters, 18% are moderately picky, and 3% are severely selective. The researchers found that children with both moderate and severe selective eating habits also showed signs of generalized anxiety disorder, depression, and social anxiety. Children with these eating habits were also twice as likely to show increased symptoms of anxiety during follow-up observations.
While being selective about food preferences isn’t necessarily a sure-sign of bigger problems, if you notice your kid is especially picky when it comes to the contents of their dinner plate, it might be worth discussing with a doctor. The specialist may find that it really is in fact a simple phase. But since picky eating is such an easily recognizable warning sign, as the study authors point out, “It’s a good way to get high-risk children into interventions, especially if the parents are asking for help.”
3. Exercise during adolescence is essential
Everyone knows exercise is important, whether you’re seven or 70. But, according to this new study published in the American Association for Cancer Research, early exercise habits could be lifesaving.
Using data from the Shanghai Women’s Health Study, which included 75,000 women between 40 and 70, researchers from Vanderbilt Epidemiology Center analyzed the relationship between lifestyle factors and mortality outcomes.
The researchers discovered that women who participated in team sports as adolescents, regardless of adult exercise level, had a 14% lower risk for death from cancer and 10% lower risk for death from any cause.
How can you use this data as a parent? If your child isn’t already involved in sports or another consistent physical activity, perhaps now is the time to find their workout of choice. Not only will it keep your kid happier and better focused in school, but as it turns out it could also increase longevity and decrease the risk of cancer.