Parents: Good News, Science Has Our Back

(12 Minute listen here or on Spotify or Apple Podcasts)
Save the Change is a weekly podcast that keeps it short, simple and actionable.

There is good news when it comes to parenting! This news has been coming in pieces, so maybe it has been hard to see. We have been too close to the image perhaps, seeing only the pixels, seeing only the problems, but if we take a deep breath (always a good idea) and step back (also always a good idea) we can see the picture that is coming together, and in that picture, the fixes and the solutions for these problems in which we have gotten so lost. We are no longer in unprecedented times.

In my Audible Original, Worry Less, Parent Better, I compared our generation of parenting to trying to raise aliens. I said in the introduction,

“We are the first generation to literally be raising our kids in a completely different world from the one in which we were raised. It’s like we grew up on Earth and our kids are growing up on Mars.”

I stand by this. It is important to acknowledge our unique challenges, so that we can understand why our parents did it differently, why they seemed to have an easier time parenting, and why, many would argue based on statistics, they were more successful at it.

We have been in unknown territory for a while, navigating without a compass. It is why in almost everything, my advice ultimately comes down to “go with your gut.” Sometimes, I have to help someone hear their gut’s message, but it is always there. Our instinct has always stayed intact, it is just hard to listen to with all the noise from the news and social media.

A few years ago, the word unprecedented became one of the most overused words in our language. It was pulled out to explain some good strategies, and it was also pulled out to defend excessive draconian policies. Yes, Covid brought challenges we hadn’t seen in many years, and the politicization, hysteria-causing and manipulation of the situation was difficult to see because we didn’t really know what we were looking at. Now, with the benefit of hindsight, good data and common sense, we can see that going with our gut, especially when it came to the kids, likely would’ve been the best course of action. We didn’t know then, but we know now.

This is a lot like the mental health decline in kids and adolescents. We didn’t see it clearly while it was happening, but we can see it clearly now. Step back. Look at the data. It should feel really good to know our guts were right. In my attempts over the years to simplify parenting and to make childhood more joyful, I have written about lots of strategies that I just thought made sense. Things I acquired from my own experiences, successes and mistakes, my consideration of the parenting styles of others, learning from “experts” and understanding through observation. I didn’t have a research grant or a team to help me prove the theories. Much of it resonated with those of you who listened or read to some of my work, and I’m sure, actually I hope, there were many moments of, “Yeah, duh, of course. I know that.” That was the point of much of it, to remind us of things we already know. We all instinctively know how to be good parents to the children with whom we were entrusted.

And now, I am happy to say, the times in which we are living have transitioned from unprecedented to precedented, at least with regard to many facets of child raising. This is good news! We don’t have to guess anymore or doubt what we think we know. The science is backing us up. The scary part of this is, of course, we now have the information we need to take action, to make the changes the science warrants and to give up our excuse, that has always, let’s face it, been pretty flimsy, to defend our actions or inactions with ignorance. We didn’t know. We do now.

Here is what the science is telling us.

  • Kids are getting smart phones at too early an age, period, stop.
  • The over-coddling of our kids has them ill-prepared to deal with life.
  • Therapy and medication aren’t always the answer.
  • Social media isn’t all bad.
  • Even after a concussion, dark isolation isn’t great for kids.
  • Adult decisions should be made by adults.

And, little by little, just about everything you already know to be true in your personal parenting place of wisdom, you will find out, is true.

Jonathan Haidt, in is new book, The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Illness, explores how technology has completely altered what it means to be a child, in a lot of negative ways. He explains how it happened, why it is so bad, and, most importantly, what we can do about it — starting with the phones.

Abigail Shrier’s latest book, Bad Therapy: Why the Kids Aren’t Growing Up addresses exactly what the title tells us. Using the data, she raises what might be an unpopular criticism — that we are over emphasizing the exploration of feelings and the experience of trauma. We are overcorrecting for the normal negative stuff that is simply a part of being a person, to the detriment of our children.

In an article entitled, Banning teens from social media won’t help their mental health. Here’s what might, Dr. Jessica Schleider, presents research that when used effectively and with good intentions, social media may, in fact, benefit young people’s mental health, and by young with respect to Jonathan Haidt, I mean those old enough to have social media.

You might like: 5 Ways to Be Kinder to Your Memory

Anyone who had a teenager during the pandemic knows how damaging isolation and being holed up in a dark bedroom can be for mental health, but this has been the standard of care for concussions. The evidence though, offers a different alternative to treatment, and one that appears more effective and kinder to mental wellbeing of the millions of kids who get concussions every year. That is, getting back to life, slowly and surely, but definitely getting back. There is an interesting article explaining this by Isobel Whitcomb, titled How We Got Concussions So Wrong that is worth a read. Disclaimer: You still need to go to a doctor, please don’t read this and tell your kid to “get back on the field.” Reentering life is very different than suiting up again.

And finally, though there will hopefully be more to come, (after all, who doesn’t like being told they are right) we may want to give a little more critical attention to gender transitioning, especially at young ages. Yes, gender dysmorphia is a real thing, and for some, the transition away from the sex they were assigned at birth is a lifesaver and a blessing. But, for many others, while it may be the treatment they thought they wanted, it may not be the treatment they needed. A long-term study out of Sweden showed, that “persons with transsexualism, after sex reassignment, have considerably higher risks for mortality, suicidal behaviour, and psychiatric morbidity than the general population.” Boys and girls at younger and younger ages are presenting to gender transition clinics, and the care they are receiving may be more culturally influenced than medically prescribed.

So, did you read all the good news between these lines?? It is amazing actually. The science is coming out in support of common sense parenting. We don’t have to say, “I think these phones might be part of the problem.” We can now confidently say, “These phones are a big part of the problem.” Now, when you say no, or you say you have to wait, you should feel no guilt. If you want mentally well kids, the evidence is behind you. When you say, “This is tough, but you can and should shake it off and move on,” no guilt, no wondering if you should be doing more to make them feel better. If you want resilient, happy kids, the evidence has your back. In a perfect world, we parents would need no defense for doing what we know to be right, but in this noisy, opinionated, meme-drenched world, we could use some support. I don’t know about you, but as a science minded person, in this world full of chaos, I really like clarity and fact. I am grateful to the researchers and academics who are giving them to us.

To learn more, you can click here for my Parenting News and Content List on List’m or you can easily search for it in the app after downloading. Just start typing “Parent” in the search bar. I started it recently, and I will update as I find new articles, podcasts and books I think are worth checking out. (File it in a folder that makes sense to you, and you can pull it up, fully updated, whenever you are looking for something to read or listen to that will improve your parenting experience. On my List’m, it is in a Wellness folder.) You’ll find several of these links are to The Free Press and to its podcast, called Honestly. I have no affiliation, just a deep appreciation as a mother, a healthcare provider and an American, for anyone who is trying to give us actual reporting of facts and tell two sides to the story. Also, the TGIF news wrap-up once a week is a must-read, because laugher is truly the best medicine. I have a serious girl crush on the author, Nellie Bowles. If you come across something I should add to the list, please email me or put it in the list’s comment section.

Remember, if you love your child, as I suspect you do, don’t even wait for the science … it is always lagging. Find a quiet moment and listen a little more to your gut.

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Author: Karen Latimer

Dr. Latimer is a Family Physician and Wellness & Parenting Coach. She works with parents who want to feel more confident when helping their children and coaches young adults to help them better navigate college life and transitions. Contact her at to learn more. She is the author of two Audible Originals, Take Back the House -- Raising Happy Parents and Worry Less, Parent Better. She is also the co-founder of the app that makes your life easier and puts social in a healthier place -- List'm.


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