If you have kids, you probably have questions about their health. How much screen time is too much? Is it OK to give my kids sugary treats routinely? How can I support my child’s mental health?
Therese Linnon, DO, is a pediatrician and mom. Not only is she frequently asked these questions in her office in Warren, but she also faces these same decisions daily as a parent to her 10-year-old daughter, Madeleine.
Dr. Linnon offers advice on 3 boundaries she sets in her household that she finds critical in today’s fast-paced, high-tech world. They may seem controversial, but to her, they’re OK in moderation—and some even vital to her daughter’s health and development.
“I permit my child to be active on screens for about 3 hours each day.”
I think it’s important my daughter learns how to use and navigate technology comfortably. It’s a vital skill she’ll need as she grows. By interacting with screens, she’s learning how to use computer programs, communicate in a healthy way on social media, and problem-solve and multitask while playing video games.
With that said, I am very diligent about monitoring her use, how she’s using these sites and what she’s exposed to when on screens. I use parental controls for time and access. My daughter uses Messenger Kids, a video messaging and chat app for kids, so I keep an eye on what she’s writing and the responses she’s getting back from peers. I also engage with her during screen time, whether it’s watching a program or participating in social media together.
“I allow my daughter to eat sugary, tasty treats on a regular basis.”
Yes, I let my child enjoy sugary treats a few times a week, but I always reinforce that these are treats (not snacks!) and meant to be eaten in moderation.
I think it’s important to regularly discuss what a healthy diet looks like and where sugary treats fit in that. Our children should be allowed to enjoy tasty treats (Girl Scout cookies, anyone?), but enjoying them in moderation and teaching kids how to do so is very important. For example, if we’re attending a birthday party and cake, cookies and candy are all being offered, she can pick one treat to enjoy, not all 3.
“I let my daughter be moody and experience emotion.”
It’s natural for children to experience a roller coaster of emotions, and I think it’s important to let a child feel sad, mad, anxious or whatever emotion she’s going through. The key, however, is giving the child the tools to deal with her moods.
Sometimes, parents come to my office worried their child is often sad or mad and they want to do all they can to stop their child from experiencing that emotion. But instead of discouraging our children’s rapid shifting of emotions, we need to teach them to be more resilient and how to deal with their emotions in healthy ways. If she’s mad, she can go to her room or listen to music to calm herself down, or if she’s feeling down, she can take a walk or journal.
“Kids aren’t always going to be smiling and pleasant all the time—neither are we!” said Dr. Linnon. “Kids are entitled to feel that way and we shouldn’t stifle that. But when kids are feeling this way, there’s a healthy way to handle it.”