With A New Study Every Day, What's A Parent To Do?
With RSS feeds, notifications by email and to cell phones, podcasts, television, and radio, news gets out fast these days. The trouble is that because new information is reported so quickly, it is often almost immediately contradicted by a subsequent announcement.
In the world of parenting, that's exactly what happens with new studies. Almost on a weekly basis, new hypotheses about what causes ADHD, autism, allergies, or sibling rivalry come out. And that's good. Science advances by testing out each hypothesis and publishing the results, so that the next researcher can build on them.
Unfortunately, that leaves parents not knowing what to do. Should all sugar be eliminated from children's diets? Should the televisions be carted out of the house and given away? Maybe all moms should quit their jobs and stay home! But next week, the news might tell us that a little sugar won't hurt, that television doled out judiciously is good for kids, and that when moms have some balance in their lives, families benefit. Here are some tips for handling all of this conflicting information:
- Don't panic! Unless it's something as concrete as a product safety recall, there's time to do a little sleuthing of your own.
- Find a trusted consultant. For most parents, this will be a pediatrician who stays abreast of new information and welcomes the opportunity to help parents sort through it. Together you can decide if any action is warranted.
- Consider reading the study yourself. You may even be able to find it online. While some research is pretty challenging to read, not all of it is. Reading the material directly is not a substitute for talking to your pediatrician, but it may help you frame the questions you want to ask.
- Correlation is not the same as causation. If a new study comes out tomorrow showing that children who eat purple polka dotted candy also tend to have higher grades in reading, that would not be a reason to raid the candy stores. Much more study would be needed in order to determine whether eating that trendy candy actually caused the higher grades – although we could guess that it probably did not.
In the end, it's a matter of striking a balance. Research definitely contributes information that aids in making parenting decisions. However, too much conflicting information can throw you and make you feel less confident about your parenting. Remember, in the end, you know your own children best. By being a good observer, you can draw your own conclusions about what works and does not work for your kids, and shape an environment where they will thrive.
©2008 Beech Acres Parenting Center; www.beechacres.org