What the Parenting Books Get Wrong with Dr. Joel Gator
In today’s episode of The Gentle Parenting show, Kim is joined by Dr. Joel “Gator” Warsh. He is a board-certified pediatrician in Los Angeles who specializes in parenting, wellness, and integrative medicine. Dr. Gator has published research in peer-reviewed journals on topics including childhood injuries, obesity, and physical activity. He has been featured in numerous documentaries, films, summits, podcasts, and articles. He also hosts his own podcast, Raising Amazing. Today, Kim and Dr. Gator talk about what the parenting books get wrong and how to focus on preventive health for kids.
Preventative Health for Kids vs. Treatment
There are a couple of things that the parenting books don’t focus on, but Dr. Gator believes that the number one issue is that most parental advice focuses on treatment and not prevention. He thinks there is way too much focus on treatment for illnesses and chronic disease when the main concerns need to be on preventative health for kids.
In the past years, Dr. Gator has seen the rate of chronicle disease in kids skyrocket. Diabetes rates have doubled for kids. This shouldn’t be happening and parents, doctors, and all caregivers need to do something. Dr. Gator says that we “should be spending just as much time, if not more time, talking about how we prevent disease and build a good foundation of health.”
Parenting books just don’t talk about this nearly as much as they should. Dr. Gator believes that even in medical school, trainees aren’t taught enough about prevention. This is extremely important for all doctors to know. Times have changed – doctors aren’t just dealing with infections and sickness. Chronic disease is rampant. The way we’re living, the food we’re eating, the toxins we’re consuming, the lack of sleep, and the stress levels are all causing our kids to be sicker than ever.
The SEEDS of Preventative Health for Kids
Dr. Gator follows a few steps for preventative health that he outlines in the SEEDS acronym. SEEDS stands for stress, environment, exercise, diet, and sleep. He thinks these are the 5 main areas to be focused on for preventive health for our kids. Every single one of the 5 SEEDS is related to health.
Something that Dr. Gator says is “if you want to be prepared if you do get sick, you have to take care of your body and your family right now.” Both Kim and Dr. Gator are seeing so much stress and anxiety in families about the pandemic and all of the lifestyle changes. Personally, Dr. Gator has never seen parents more stressed out than he has over the last two years. Almost every visit from the past year has been a mental health visit.
Dr. Gator’s biggest advice to patients dealing with mental health crises for both themselves and their children is to break the cycle. If we get stuck in this cycle of getting stressed and sick, we’ll create the very thing we’re worried about. For example, the groups of people getting most sick with COVID are those who have diabetes, obesity, or anxiety disorders. Focusing on our mental health is critical to our physical health.
Preventative Mental Health For Kids
Dr. Gator’s number one preventative health measure for anxiety and depression is focusing on positivity. Ask yourself, and your kids what are the good things going on in your life? Spend a little time thinking of those things and talking about them with your family.
If the news or social media are stressing you out, get off! This break doesn’t have to be permanent – it can just be for however long you need. An hour, a day, a week – whatever you need.
He also advises searching out fun-loving things. Find the time to find things that make you happy as a parent. Being happy as a parent is a preventative health measure for your kids. Carve out a positive time for you and your family, and then you’ll see things move in the right direction.
Dr. Gator says “if we want a healthier future for our kids, we’ve got to start with ourselves.” Being aware of our feelings and our current state makes us more present and less projecting on our children. Especially with the pandemic, everyone feels so alone. A lot of things have been brought to light that was previously swept under the rug. In this case, Dr. Gator says to look at past adversity and remember how much stronger you’ve become.
Staying Balanced for Preventative Health
The number two issue Dr. Gator has with parenting books is that there is a lot of division and tensions on parenting topics. A lot of parenting books often force you to choose a team – breastfeeding or bottle feeding, co-sleeping or crib sleeping, etc. They make you feel like you have to be all in or all out. The reality is that every “right” answer for parenting comes somewhere in the middle. Dr. Gator says “there is no one size fits all for anything in parenting.”
While there are strong divisions for what’s safe and what’s not, almost every “right” answer for parents lies in the middle, because the right answer for you may not be the right answer for someone else. Dr. Gator advises taking in all the information. There’s nothing wrong with reading, Googling, and getting all the info. But, take in both sides and synthesize information for yourself and your family.
Dr. Gator says “parenting is hard enough without the judgment of what is right and what is wrong and I agree that the middle road is a good one, and the one you can follow through with”.
The One Health Measure to Take
Dr. Gator’s top preventative health measure to take is to change your children’s diet. Health concerns and chronic illness come from not getting the nutrients we need. You don’t have to go all out on changing your child’s diet. Start small, and make changes as they naturally come.
If you’re not giving your body the building blocks it needs, it won’t have what it needs to prevent illness. Dr. Gator’s biggest advice is to reduce chemicals and sugar. Taking these out of your child’s diet can help give them the healthy foundation they need.