“In our society, there’s this myth of meritocracy. That you can control everything if you work hard enough. And with specific inputs, your child will become the best, safest, child in the world. And as someone with anxiety and control issues, it’s a very appealing promise, but it’s just not true.” Said Dr. Rebekah Diamond, Pediatrician, Author, and Educator.
The time and energy required to manage our mental and physical health has grown exponentially. So, in addition to the regular Mom-guilt, there’s added stress to make ‘the right’ health decisions for our kids when the world around us still feels wobbly.
In our research study, now with over 3,500 respondents mostly Moms (97%) confidence has taken a hit since the pandemic. Which probably isn’t surprising between the children’s mental health crisis and learning loss of the past few years. In our most recent survey wave, that began in January of 2023, more than a third (38%) cite doing ‘terribly’ or ‘not as well as usual’ as parents.
But there are strategies. Not only to find trusted information, but to trust your own instincts more often. Especially when it comes to parenting. Rebekah, determined to demystify the conflicting advice we receive about raising healthy kids wrote, Parent Like a Pediatrician. She wanted to prevent the self-doubt, we all experience as parents, from derailing our sense of self-efficacy and strength.
Separate Facts from Fear
Rebekah said, “As a board-certified pediatrician, and someone who grew up around kids, I was so surprised by how little confidence I had as a new Mom. Of course, things were harder than I imagined. And many of the benchmarks for parenting success, were being set in these very arbitrary ways. Like, ‘spend X number of hours a day’ with your kid. Some standards really are important. Like having clean drinking water, vaccines, doing your best to do safe sleep, loving your child and not being neglectful or abusive.” Although many of us poured over parenting books during pregnancy, once the kids are born, we have much less time. So, how can we find answers?
Because Managing Health is Much More Complex
Pre-pandemic, most of us received very contained health advice. Rebekah said, “You would go to a doctor, get a recommendation, shots, and meds, and that felt like one domain. But the demands have heightened and health advice, is often connected to your parenting style. For example, if you ask about the ‘best’ way to have your child learn how to not hold in urine, when they’re toilet training, you may have to do this health-related thing. Or a parenting strategy. Soon you’re getting information that feels connected, and maybe it is, but maybe it’s not.” So where do you look to determine if advice is credible?
So, Filter to What’s Relevant and Reputable
Rebekah said, “It’s taken five years to get to the point where I have a framework for seeking advice. Like, what’s the science behind it? And what’s the reality behind it? Which is like having 6 full-time jobs! So, I’m trying to curate information. So, parents don’t go online and see someone with a study that says, ‘you have to spend 14 hours of quality time a week doing X or your child will be permanently damaged.’ Or the study that shows ‘if you say your child did a good job, they will forever be damaged. Because it’s bad to praise them.’ These things that get in your head may have some truth behind them. But they’re given in a way that builds on fear and anxiety, often, to sell things.”
Set Goals That Are Meaningful to You
Rebekah explains we can still choose our priorities instead of yielding to outside pressure. “If your goal is, ‘I want to manage my own anger in a better way. And model this’ that’s a great big picture goal. And we should have experts to give us strategies. But the one-size-fits-all flattening of goals, into what successful parenting ‘should’ look like, is what sets people up for failure. And it’s an incorrect sense of failure.” Amen!
She added, “When it overwhelms me, I try to take a step back and remind myself, I’m looking for guidance and information. But ultimately, I will know what to do or have a sense of what to try, because I know my child and I know myself.”
Focus on the Bond with Your Child First
It’s hard to discern fact from fiction for almost everything we see. And when it’s about the link between parenting and our children’s health, it’s nearly impossible to vet fully without expertise. So, how do we separate what’s important?
Rebekah said, “The domain that I think matters the most, is really that relationship between you and your child. Often, advice on how to interact with your child can make you feel like there is a single way to speak. As if we’re parenting robots with a strict script. Like, ‘hello child, I will respond exactly with this information’ But it’s not a series of computer inputs and outputs.”
Let the Guilt Go and Choose Your Path to Self-Advocate
Rebekah wisely reminds us that parents, particularly in the US, receive very little support compared to other developed nations. So, drop any guilt about feeling lost and focus where you need to. She said, “Pour your energy back into what will help you and your family. If you have any reserve for working within your community to advocate, that’s great. But if not, it’s an act of change to say, ‘I’m not going to listen to the guilt. I have to radically advocate for me and my child’ or whoever you’re advocating for. It’s not a secret our healthcare system is beyond broken.”
Your Time and Energy are Variable
“I’m a hospital pediatrician so people are sometimes surprised to hear I’m so enraged about the lack of outpatient support. Because on paper, I don’t interact with it, but the reality is I do interact with it,” Rebekah said. “And the vast majority of what I see, are downstream results from failures in our system to provide preventive care, mental healthcare, and societal supports. For every patient I have to admit, there is some worsening of their condition, because of a lack of supports they needed and should have had earlier.”
Many factors, including your financial wellness, mental health, work and community environments, impact the journey. She added, “It depends a lot on your employment and financial situation. If you are getting subsidized housing or insurance, your options are very different. And sometimes they’re a lot less in terms of what you can afford or have access to.”
Consider Scheduling Resource Appointments
Despite the challenges, Rebekah explains, there are workarounds to get more expert help. “I know we’re very busy and love having single appointments or telehealth visits to discuss one issue. But that issue can also be resources. So, if you’re thinking, ‘I have to wait until the next well visit to ask about XYZ’ consider a separate appointment. Because part of the issue is scarcity of time. So, if a pediatrician has the ability to sit and help you navigate resources, like nutritionists or social workers, that can be deeply helpful.”
And Seek as Much Support as Possible
Rebekah said, “I had a lot of mental health issues during and after my pregnancy. So, I feel very lucky to have had the privilege and resources that I did. And my ability to navigate the system and know what I needed to advocate for. So, on one level, I recognized when I had both pathological and normal overwhelmed feelings. And I had to add mental health support and logistical support. In retrospect, I would have done even more, had I fully appreciated and known what was out there.”
Exactly. Many workplaces now offer extra benefits to help with everything from fertility, pregnancy, post-partum and support for kids. Please remember, to champion great outcomes for our kids, we have to be mentally, physically and emotionally healthy. So, avail yourself of every resource you can.
Many thanks to the talented Dr. Rebekah Diamond!
Check out her amazing book, Parent Like a Pediatrician. All of the Facts, None of the Fear. And follow Rebekah’s great adventure on her website, Instagram, and Twitter.
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Dr. Rebekah Diamond is from Connecticut and received her undergraduate degree from Yale University. She then was awarded her M.D. from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Following completion of her pediatrics residency training at the University of Michigan, she accepted a position as a pediatric hospitalist in New York City and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Columbia University, where she still works today.
Her training and practice mean that it is literally her job to stay up to date on all of the data behind what experts say are the safest and best choices for parents to make for their children.
She is also a mother of a young daughter, and knows firsthand the challenge of sorting through conflicting pediatrician and internet recommendations. It’s why she’s here to explain how pediatrician parents actually raise their own kids so you can make the safest, sanest choices for your little ones.
Yes, the Internet broke parenting. But she’s here to fix it.Tags: health and wellbeing for families, manage children's health, Manage Stress For Moms, Working Families