Doc Smo here, fresh off the plane from Europe. My wife and I made a bargain: she loves to travel, which I don’t, and I love to bicycle… so I agreed to travel if she would agree to bike. That’s what they call a win-win in business school. We went to the Czech Republic, Germany, and Austria and biked some beautiful countryside along the Danube. With all that up-close and personal time in Europe, I thought we would talk about what I observed about European children compared to American children in today’s pedcast. So sit back, pop open a Perrier, and listen.
Let’s start with the babies: they look a lot like American babies…cute and chubby. They seem to be well equipped with fancy strollers and accessories like you would see in any upscale American city. Moms seemed a little younger than the ones I see in the States on average, or maybe they were just more relaxed, because many of these moms have had a THREE YEAR maternity leave after the birth of their child. I don’t know about you, but three years off work would make me look a little younger, too. Fortunately, I saw no new mothers smoking like so many of their childless counterparts like to do. I don’t know if it is a rule in Europe, but I almost never saw a baby without a hat, no matter what the temperature was. How do those European mothers get their children to wear those hats?? I also didn’t see any babies who were barefooted or wearing traditional shoes for that matter. They seem to always wear leather moccasins. Pacifiers: they are big among European children, well into toddler life and beyond. These children are destined to speak 3 or four languages quite well, so i guess the paci doesn’t slow down language acquisition like we American pediatricians are taught. The majority of preschool children I saw were donning pacifiers as well as bottles. Now here is a big difference I noticed: European parents don’t let their children snack incessantly like so many American parents encourage their children to do. They must have listened to my podcast on snacking I call my Crunch Out campaign. For more on that, make sure you check out the “Crunch Out” campaign here: https://www.docsmo.com/docsmos-crunch-out-campaign-begins-pedcast/
How about the older school-age children and teens? Of course, they seem as addicted to their cell phones as any American child, but not to soda. I rarely saw a teen brandishing a soda…a beer on the other hand, YES. More on that in a minute. From my observations, European children seem to be pack animals, just like their American counterparts, seemingly always moving in groups. I think the rate of being overweight was slightly less, but still a problem in Europe just as in the US. Overall, I think the girls dressed a little less seductively, but it was not unusual to see them with tattoos and piercings. Lip piercings seem to be very popular. Body art of all kinds seems to be in vogue in Europe just as the US unfortunately. Another difference I noticed was that very few teens wore braces on their teeth; I guess having perfectly aligned teeth isn’t as important to European families. Additionally, I did notice how much clearer the skin of teens seemed to be. It was not unusual to see a teen with perfect unblemished skin. Amazing. In my practice, I rarely see a teen with perfect skin. Recent studies have begun to link soda intake with acne. Since European children drink less soda, maybe this research is onto something.
Now back to that beer comment I made a few minutes ago. I think we are all aware of the much more relaxed attitude European families have with regards to alcohol and their children. Not only did I see many young children with alcohol in public, but I also saw waiters serving alcohol to children who appeared to be about 12-14 years old. When I asked, I was told that the drinking age is 18 but that younger children are frequently served alcohol. So who do you think has more difficultly with intoxication among children, Europe or the US? If you said Europeans, you were correct. It seems it is a myth that giving children alcohol at a young age makes them less likely to become troubled drinkers. Age of introduction of alcohol may have nothing to do with future alcohol dependency, but lowering the drinking age makes no sense based on my reading and observations.
If you really want to get an insider’s view of the European parenting experience, I recommend a book called Bringing up BeBe by Pamela Druckerman. You can check out my book review of her book here: https://www.docsmo.com/book-review-bringing-up-bebe-by-pamela-druckermanbook-review-pedcast/ Mrs. Druckerman gives a funny, enlightening view of raising babies in France and how it differs from parenthood in the U.S. I think you will really enjoy her book. As always, your comments are welcome on my blog, www.docsmo.com. This is DocSmo, hoping you get the chance to unravel the joys of travel. Until next time.
Health at a Glance: Europe 2012
2. Infant mortality in first 24 hours
US versus Scandanavia
3. Comparison of Drinking Rates and Problems: European Countries and the United States