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Old health myths practiced by grandparents cause risk for kids

When grandparents step up to the plate, it can be wonderful for grandchildren but can also pose challenges in terms of lifestyle, finances and mental and physical health to a somewhat older or elderly cohort.

By Zee Media Bureau | Updated: May 05, 2017, 19:35 PM IST
Old health myths practiced by grandparents cause risk for kids
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New Delhi: As per a new study, practicing outdated health and parenting myths could potentially pose serious risks to young children.

The study, one of a trio led by senior investigator Andrew Adesman, MD, is scheduled for presentation at the Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting being held in San Francisco. Dr. Adesman, Chief of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park, focused his research on the particular difficulties facing grandparents solely raising their offspring's children.

"When grandparents step up to the plate, it can be wonderful for grandchildren but can also pose challenges in terms of lifestyle, finances and mental and physical health to a somewhat older or elderly cohort," said Dr. Adesman.

"In their questionnaires, a fairly large sample size of grandparents felt they were doing a good job but acknowledged they didn't have the support they often needed and that their role could be alienating in terms of their own peer group."

More than 7 million grandchildren in the United States were being raised solely by their 2.7 million grandparents in 2012, according to the US Census Bureau. Factors contributing to this growing phenomenon include the opioid epidemic, parental incarceration or problems with parents' physical or mental health, Dr. Adesman said.

In the decades since grandparents raised their own children, certain parenting practices and health beliefs have evolved - catching some grandparents unaware and potentially threatening their grandchildren's safety.

For example, in one of Dr. Adesman's studies, "Potential Health Risks to Children When Grandparents Raising Their Grandchildren Subscribe to Out-Dated Health Beliefs," 44 percent of the 636 grandparents who completed a detailed questionnaire mistakenly believed that "ice baths are a good way to bring down a very high fever.

" In fact, ice baths pose a hypothermia risk.

Perhaps more notably, nearly one-quarter of these grandparents did not know that "infants should be put to sleep on their back, not on their stomach or side" - a major risk factor for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Pediatricians can help grandparents raising their grandchildren by updating them on current health care beliefs and parenting methods, Dr. Adesman said. "It's important that pediatricians not make the mistake of taking for granted that because these grandparents have raised children already, they have the wisdom of the ages," he added.

In his two other related studies, Dr. Adesman and his team surveyed 774 grandparents who identify as the primary caregiver of one or more grandchildren. One questionnaire aimed to characterize these grandparents' sources of support and evaluate their impact, as well as identify unmet needs for support.

(With ANI inputs)