Tag Archives: Hormones

Why It’s Always The End Of The World For Your Child

In my house, the end of the world came around with a distressing regularity.

With three young dudes growing up in the same house, being ruled over by the meanest, most horrible dictator ever to put on a pair of pants and then jump up and down on poor, defenseless boys who only wanted so very little. . .

Those poor young dudes. It must have been like living in hell. Only, the thing of it is. . . I was there. It wasn’t hell for anyone. Anyone but an adult in the vicinity.

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You’ve all seen it. Even if you’re not a parent, you’ve seen it.Pulling an ugly face is a regular occurrence for little dudes during their toddler years. And beyond, if I'm being honest.

Something happens and suddenly the world ends for a young dudette, who starts screaming and yelling and crying and throwing herself onto the floor of the grocery store and acting like the end is not only nigh, but already here and wearing spiked heels to step on her.

On a (slightly) less histrionic level, I and probably most parents in the history of history have heard just about every single variation on the phrase, “This was the worst. Evar!”

I mean, seriously. If I hear that again, I just might be the one who screams.

So, yeah. We’ve all seen this sort of thing happen. Something minor rocks the little dude’s world and he reacts like someone tried to cut off his arm and beat his puppy to death with it. (Although that might be a bit of a harsh simile. Accurate, but still harsh.)

The big question (other than, “How do I stop this? Or, barring that, make a clean get away without being caught?) is why? Why do our little dudes and dudettes react so over the top?

The easiest answer is also the one about which we can do the least. They simply have no basis for comparison. When young dudes aren’t yet six or so, they are all about existing in the now.

If it already happened, it doesn’t matter. If it will happen in the future, it doesn’t matter. Right now. That’s all that matters.

Which means that, if a child doesn’t have something right now, at this very moment, it will never happen. They will forever be deprived, just like they have always been deprived of what they want. That’s a hard thing to face, especially for tiny humans who have so little experience.

Which leads us to a second reason. Being young, they have no basis for comparison. When little J’Amelia is mean to your daughter in school, it might be the worst day of her life so far. Really. She might not be exaggerating. Oh, she will experience worse (much, much worse) later in her life, but being young, she still hasn’t enjoyed all of life’s little jokes.

Young dudettes and dudes don’t have the life experience necessary to really make a good comparison between miseries. Stubbing her toe is bad and hurts, but they can’t ask themselves if it’s anywhere near as bad as that time they broke their arm. Or cut open their thumb. Or, really, anything.

Our ability to compare allows us to realize that it’s just pain and we’ve had worse, which allows us to calm down.

And, that’s another thing. We, as adults, are supposed to be rational, thinking beings. (I’m going to be nice and say most of us are, although, in my heart of hearts, I doubt it.) The brains of young kids don’t fully mature until they’re much, much older, say, around 25 or so for boys.

Unfortunately for the ears around them, their limbic system (which controls their emotions) is fully functioning, firing on all cylinders. Toddler brains become flooded with the hormones and neurotransmitters that cause pain and anger and sorrow and all the rest, but they don’t have the cognitive skill and experience to overcome that and regain control of themselves.

Looking back, I’m not sure I was able to offer much in the way of hope for struggling parents. Other than the obvious: This, too, shall pass.

And, though you doubt it in the midst of a truly epic meltdown, it will get better. All you have to do is stay relatively calm and help your little dude through his current issue.

It’s not personal. It’s just what and who they are at the moment. Keep showing good behavior, being a good role model and talking them through their experiences so they learn the right thing and . . . everything should be fine.

I’m going to do you younger parents a favor and not even bring up the teenage years here. Mostly because I’m a signatory to the Geneva Conventions and there’s some stuff up with which no one should put.

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Pregnancy Brain Is A Real Thing*

This is her brain. This is her brain on pregnancy.

When we were pregnant (and, if you’ve read that nearly-a-bestselling-book A Dude’s Guide to Babies: The New Dad’s Playbook, you’ll know it’s a two-person event, pregnancy), we liked to refer to it as PIS, or pregnancy-induced senility.

That way, she could say she PISed off and we could laugh when she locked her keys inside the car in line at the car wash and I had to leave work to come rescue her because she was crying and upset. It was that or start screaming my own self and that would have been a bad idea.

Hell might have no fury like a woman scorned, but even they run in fear of pregnant women. And it’s not simply because of the wacky hormones running amok in their bloodstream. But that is a post for another day.A woman's brain really does change during pregnancy, but I'm pretty sure that would be a bad thing to mention to an actual pregnant woman. Because pregnancy also does wacky things to their emotional lability.

What my wife, known to me as She Who Must, While Pregnant, Be Getting What She Wants So That I Might Be Allowed To Continue My Miserable Existence, and I called PIS also is known as pregnancy brain. There are those who say it is a myth.

They are, according to science, very much wrong. Pregnancy brain is real. However, it’s more than merely pregnant women forgetting stuff.

“Pregnancy brain” definitely exists, but it may not be as negative as you think. In fact, it can make you more perceptive of other people’s emotions, according to new research presented at British Psychological Society Annual Conference in the U.K. 

Pregnant women were more sensitive to facial emotion in all of the pictures, which could mean that the right hemisphere of their brains (the one usually responsible for recognizing visual emotion) was more active in them than in new moms, meaning they could process emotion from all angles. This might be the body’s way of preparing a soon-to-be mom to be more responsive to a baby once it’s born.

But, I hear you calling**, dude! That has nothing to do with putting a box of cereal away in the fridge. True, but this does.

One meta-analysis of 14 studies in 2007 found some evidence of memory impairments in pregnant women, though the findings weren’t totally consistent. Another 2010 study says that hormonal changes during pregnancy can affect your memory of spatial locations, but the research only looked at less than 50 women. 

All of which goes to show that, while pregnancy does make some demonstrable physical changes to a woman’s brain, we can’t say with certainty that it’s what causes her to forget stuff, to lose stuff, to become absent minded, to get mixed up with simple directions or any of that stuff.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say, even with conclusive scientific evidence to back you up, it’s probably a good idea to not mention any of the negative stuff that might have something to do with pregnancy brain.

If you’re not able to simply turn and run (which, oddly, seems to be my most frequently offered bit of advice for dudes dealing with pregnant women), I think your best bet would be to say that, yes, pregnancy does change a woman’s brain.

But it’s for the good. Pregnant brains are actually changing so moms-to-be can better bond with the little dude or little dudette.

Then turn and run.

Footnotes & Errata

* But don’t think that gets you off the hook for even considering the possibility of maybe mentioning it. Sort of like saying the word menopause when talking to ladies of a certain age. Not a good idea.

** But I’d better not hear you call me Beth. (Wow, that was an obscure and very old joke.)

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The Stars Like Grains Of Sand

There’s a very good chance, if the doctor to whom I’ve been talking for the last little while, that autism and autism spectrum disorders like learning disabilities and Asperger’s Syndrome aren’t caused only by genetic factors.

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Picture courtesy of autism.lovetoknow.com

Dr. Robert Melillo, founder of the  Brain Balance Achievement Centers, an internationally recognized expert on Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and author of the recent book,  Autism: The Scientific Truth About Preventing, Diagnosing, and Treating Autism Spectrum Disorders–and What Parents Can Do Now, stressed that people with an ASD must have a genetic predisposition. That is, the genes that can cause ASDs are there in the person’s body, but it’s a whole host of environmental factors that actually triggers the disease process.

One very important environmental trigger, he said, is stress in parents. Not just job-stress, but a more pervasive stressed caused by constant activation of the body’s sympathetic nervous system, or the flight or fight response. This stress, he said, not only causes inflammation in the parents’ bodies, which certainly isn’t good, but it also can change how their genes work without changing the actual genetic code.

When our bran and body are active and we’re healthy, our brain inhibits our fight or flight system in our body, what’s called the sympathetic nervous system,” he said. “If our body is working correctly, the stress levels go down. It lets us sleep better and eat better and we keep our stress response very low.”

The problem with that stress response, Melillo said, is that it can produce hormones which interacts with already extant genes, which then can cause a diminished cognitive response.

“If the adult has increased stress hormones, which can mask the effect of the gene for brain activiey, it doesn’t affect you much since the adult brain is already mostly already formed,” he said. “But if you pass that along in a turned-off position to your child, it will have a major impact.”

That, Melillo said, is from where the increase in ASD diagnoses is coming, a stressed-out population constantly teetering on the verge of flight or fight.

Sounds pretty horrible, actually. Still, all that bit is really some pretty good news. Which is that, if one of the major causes of ASD manifestation is parental stress and other environmental factors making an impact on the parents, there is every possibility that ASDs can be, if not cured, then severely ameliorated, Melillo said.

“One of the reasons I wrote the book is that most people are completely unaware that you can prevent it,” he said, speaking about his first book on the subject, Disconnected Kids: The Groundbreaking Brain Balance Program for Children with Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, and Other Neurological Disorders.

So there are things parents can do to reduce the risk of having an ASD child, as well as, according to Dr. Melillo, reduce the impact of an ASD on a child already on the spectrum. Still, I wondered, are there certain types of people who might be more inclined than others to having a child on the spectrum?

As it turns out, yes, there are. And I’ll be back on Tuesday with out last post on Dr. Melillo and autism to tell you dudes about it.

 

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