Tag Archives: children

FOR MEN: The New Equality, Male Infertility

man and babyThe much maligned egg of a woman over 35. It’s been the target of criticism for so many years that most women can easily rattle off their chances of a having a down syndrome baby in relationship to their age. (1 in 2000 for a twenty-year-old, 1 in 100 for a forty-year-old.) But now the research lens is finally aimed at male fertility and viable sperm. Turns out, men need to consider their fertility window too.

In the last few decades there has been a huge increase in the numbers of older men fathering babies. In the 35-49 age group, in particular, there has been a 40% increase of new fathers. Delaying fatherhood to play the mating field may now have intergenerational consequences.

A US study,  published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, “Advancing age has differential effects on DNA change, chromatin integrity, gene mutations, and aneuplodies (chromosome abnormalities) in sperm” has shown that older men have higher chances of passing down genetic issues to their offspring. A French study backed up that finding, showing that infertility issues of men do indeed rise significantly after the age of 40.

Not only men who are waiting to have kids after the age of forty face fertility issues, but when they do successfully impregnate a woman, they have a higher chance of passing two specific gene disorders: schizophrenia and achondroplasia (commonly known as dwarfism.) The authors of the study,  Andrew Wyrobek from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and Brenda Eskenazi from the University of California, School of Public Health, blamed the quality of a man’s sperm, which they say, quickly weakens after the age of 40.

Women who are holding out for an older, more successful man, might consider this. One study found that women, regardless of their age, who carry offspring of a man past forty. increase their risk of miscarriage.

Finally, one other US study gathered and examined ninety- seven samples of semen, all coming from men from the age range 22-80, who were not smokers. When looking over the samples, researchers found that the activeness and the movement of the sperm related with DNA fragmentation. The study concluded as well that not only do women have a biological clock, but so do men.

With research like this, suddenly the idea of being young enough to throw a ball with a child becomes less important than simply being young enough to father a healthy child.


FOR PARENTS: Why Kids Need To Be Allowed To Hate Their Parents

Recently, I posted a tweet at @DrWendyWalsh that said “In order for kids to understand love they have to be allowed to hate their parents.” This confused a lot of people, so let me explain.

Enforced love to parents such as constant complying, forced apologies, and directives to “change that tone” and “don’t give me that look,” doesn’t teach kids how to love. It teaches them to how fake it. It directswatermark them to push their true feelings underground where they will come up in the most unexpected ways. Well meaning parents might think they are training their kids to put on a public face when they are feeling bad, or perhaps parents simply can’t stand the idea that their kids don’t love them, but being a good parent means being a strong emotional container for the whole family. It means being the strong, stable mast while the sails blow out of control. In order for kids to truly feel loved, sometimes they need to be allowed to hate their parents. As one teenager once told me, “My parents are the only safe place for me to be real, because I know they’ll love me no matter what.”

Now I’m not suggesting that parents have no boundaries, or that they have no rules. But our job is to shape our kids behavior, not their emotions. A good parent can tolerate it when their child is mad at them. A strong, loving parent who gets the kid eye-roll or sneer, or even the scream of “I hate you!”  after a rule has been enforced simply says, “I know you’re mad at me, but I still love you.” That’s the best medicine a kid can ever get from a parent. The knowledge that they are loved no matter what. And that’s how children learn how to love themselves and love others. That is true love.

FOR PARENTS: The Consequences of Killing Santa

op-santa-14I remember the conversation with my parents like it was yesterday. I was ten years old and I could feel my ability to imagine slipping away. This startled me so much that I sat my parents down and gravely told them that something very bad was happening to my brain. “The fairies are leaving,” I told them. “Just months ago, if I imagined a fairy, she was right there in front of me, but now it’s getting harder and harder to make her appear.” My parents giggled, of course, at this cute childish analysis of a maturing brain.

Psychologists know that children have evolved to have magical thinking, both as a way to grow intelligence and for emotional protection. According to Kevin Volkan, Ph.D., psychology professor at California State University, Channel Islands, “In our hunter/gatherer past, imagination was a very important skill needed for planning. And when vulnerable children feel afraid, going to their “special place” can be calming. In the most extreme examples of child abuse, an active imagination can contribute to dissociative personality disorder.”

But for the average kid, a natural imagination allows them to accept the tooth fairy, the Easter Bunny and Santa Clause quite readily. But challenging these cherished beliefs can cause stress to a child who is not ready to let go of the magic in their lives.

A professor of marriage and family therapy at Kansas State University, Jared Durtschi, says there isn’t one set age where kids stop believing the sweet old elf in the red suit. In fact, many children have a transition period that can last for years. And it’s important to know that even though a younger sibling may echo the words of older sibs, that “Santa isn’t real,” he or she may still be flirting with the idea but counting on a parent to reconfirm that this cherished “security blanket “is still available.

But when parents hasten the maturation by bursting a child’s bubble, it can cause anxiety and fears. Those magical characters are some of the greatest comforts a child can have. So, even if your nine, ten, or eleven year old tells you they know “the truth” helping them keep the magic for a little longer can give them an emotional coping mechanism.

FOR MOMS: Creating a Village From The Get Go

MDG : Maternal Health : group of women with babies sits outside a clinic in RwandaHumans are wired to bond. We don’t do well in isolation. Neither do new parents. Our hunter/gatherer ancestors had an instant village of people with a biological interest in a new baby — grannies, aunties, uncles, teenaged siblings, and parents. In fact, many anthropologists think that a preverbal infant’s need to decode this network of faces and voices was a big factor in the evolution of our intelligence.

However, with the mobility required for an efficient workforce in modern capitalism, most new parents live away from relatives. But the lack of a granny doesn’t mean you can’t create a village from the very beginning. It can help you and your baby. Isolation has been linked to postpartum depression in new mothers, and babies respond positively to consistent multiple care givers. (I used the word “consistent” on purpose. A revolving door of caregivers and strangers can create attachment problems and anxiety in small children.) Here are three ways that new or expectant mothers can begin to create a nurturing village:

1. Start before you give birth. Collect every email and phone number you can from that pregnancy yoga class, baby CPR training, or labor prep group. You’ll likely be giving birth within weeks of each other and will have an instant group to reach out to when you run into a new mother speed bump.

2. Go online. There are thousands of mommy bloggers and parenting websites (For education, my favorite is KidsInTheHouse.com) and plenty of them have chat groups and real world mom’s groups that meet right in your neighborhood. Don’t be shy. Reach out. I promise, there’s another new mother living very close to you who can help you carry your burden.

3. Create a mommy co-op. This is the single best way to bond with mom’s and find some time for yourself. Post notices at neighborhood playgrounds and on your online social networks and create a baby play group. A reasonable number would be five to eight parents. After, a few weeks, when everyone has gotten to know each other and the babies bond with the other mothers, have two moms leave for some free time each week. That’s your village creating free child care.

Here’s my video on the importance of a mommy village:

FOR MEN: Do You Carry The Daddy Gene?

man with babyIn a new study of childless adults out of Great Britain, comes some surprising news about men and fatherhood. Despite the stereotype that women want children more than men and, consequently, feel more depressed about being childless, this study showed something new. Childless men who nearly as likely as women to report having an urge to nurture a little bundle and if they did report this feeling, they were MORE likely than women to experience feelings of depression, anger and isolation.

One big difference in the study looked at what motivated each gender to want children. The women sited biological urges to nurture that seems to come from within, while men reported societal influences to be married and have a family. Clearly, workplaces have long understood the value of a male employee in a stable family, as married men earn more and get promoted more easily.

Interestingly, some older men in the study, now in their sixties and seventies, looked back at their life and saw fatherhood as a missed opportunity with benefits they had been unaware of when they were young. Some mentioned the loss of a large family and others regret the loss of being able to be a mentoring grandfather.

The research was presented at the British Sociological Association annual conference in London this year and has spawn related studies on men and fatherhood.