Simplify. It’s always my goal, but my tendency is always to complicate. I am an overachiever, always explaining a little more than I need to, checking off more boxes than are required, looking for problems that may not need to be immediately addressed. Hence I run chronically behind.
Seems the longer I practice pediatrics, the more I have to say and the less time I have to say it.
After assessing growth and development and advising parents on how to handle things like symptoms of teething, introducing new foods, potty training, car seats front or back-facing, signs of illness, safe storage of weapons and medications, sunscreen, asthma education, not letting a baby go to bed with a a bottle all night due to risks of cavities and obesity, managing screen time in a pre-teen and so many other important things, I have about two minutes left to impart some parenting wisdom.
Over time, I have come to believe that those two minutes are the most important of every visit. There is so much to say, so much to convey. In two minutes.
I want to share that children who are raised in a house filled with literacy, language, and books are likely to hear 30 million more words by age 3 than those who aren’t.
I want to share that families who sit down to meals routinely increase the odds that their children will attain higher levels of education, decrease their chances of substance abuse, obesity, early intercourse, and odds of ending up in prison.
I want to share that attending to a child’s mental health is just as important as attending to his physical health. Make that more important.
I want to share that discipline should be guided more by positive attention and teaching good habits than reacting strongly to bad behavior. Time ins > Time outs.
I want to share that family walks are a great way to diffuse the stress of the day. They can be done with talking, without talking, at any age, for any distance or length of time. They promote exercise, connection, mindfulness, and are never a waste of time.
I want to share that children are watching parents and will model what they see and hear, what is said, what is done, what is eaten, how others are treated. Everything.
I want to share that bedtime should not be about turning on a TV, turning off the light, and saying good night to a child with a bottle or sippy cup in a crib or bed, but instead should involve an intricate ritual created by each family in which teeth are brushed, fears are discussed, prayers and gratitude are expressed, books are read, and children are snuggled.
I want to share that it’s okay for children to feel happy, angry, sad, anxious, or frustrated, that they should be taught how to name those emotions, sit with them, and learn how to channel them into strong, healthy relationships.
I want to share that sometimes bad things happen to good people, and sometimes good people do bad things. Sometimes these things affect children, affect their growth and development, affect their behavior, can even affect their future mental and physical health.
I want to share that it’s important to acknowledge these things, accept responsibility for them, then learn how to use these hard lessons to strengthen a family going forward.
I want to share that resiliency in children has been studied and that we know that, even when a child’s life is full of challenges, the most important factor to insuring a positive future for that child is having at least one caring adult who is consistently present and offers unconditional love.
How can I cover all this in two minutes?
*(or any meal)