For the holidays, share a great gift for health: Quality time for friends and loved ones

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Dear Readers,

If you’re like most of us, your life’s harried enough. And now you’re planning the perfect holidays, too, with many precisely picked presents, carefully staged events, and grand hopes for special moments. But what if all the seasonal hustle and bustle mattered less than one of the greatest, healthiest gifts of all that you could share with you and yours? In this issue of our newsletter, we look at how allowing for quality time can make a big difference in your life, your health and well-being, and for those whom you love.

Families, kids feel the sting
of shortfalls in parents’ time

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With all the attention it grabs as a wealth- and innovation-generator, Silicon Valley also finds itself increasingly in the spotlight for the huge personal demands and toll it imposes on its gifted young. Its giant employers’ policies that attempt to strike work-life balances also lead, inevitably, to scrutiny and self-reflection about America’s stressed-out families. This includes recent reports on research showing that U.S. kids increasingly are being raised in households where both parents work long, hard hours, leaving Mom and Dad exhausted, cranky, and always feeling short on time for family and friends.

A recent survey found that a surprising three-quarters of Moms and half of Dads responding said they gave up work opportunities, switched positions, or quit jobs because they put families first.

In at least some households, the drive to increase the family’s wealth and well-being by having both parents work has meant that children younger than 5 are left with worrisome, unsupervised time with tablets, smartphones, and other electronic devices.

Further, and especially for new Moms, there’s growing concern that the parental press of time and contemporary distractions may be harming their most precious charges – their infants and their critical intellectual development. The trendy term to describe a part of this woe is breasting — it occurs when busy mothers see breastfeeding as a time when they can catch up with other parts of their busy lives, rather than focusing on their child. New moms may divert time away from their child’s feeding to read online or to text friends and other family members. That means they don’t catch baby’s key developmental signals – and they don’t send clues they need to, too, as Moms.

As a psychologist specializing in maternal issues at a busy Southern California hospital explains: “If baby is trying to make contact with you by noises or smiles and they can’t and they learn over time that they can’t rely on you to respond, it runs the risk of them becoming either anxiously attached to your or insecurely attached to you and they will ramp up their behavior until you pay attention.”

Breastfeeding isn’t for every Mom, of course. But for those who can and do, it’s vital to spend that time in qualitative fashion with baby, paying full attention, and enjoying undivided moments in speeding an infant’s development and readiness for the world.

Breastfeeding also may benefit Moms in ways that researchers are just beginning to understand, including helping mothers later on to prevent diseases like cancer and diabetes.

Lest anyone also mistake the intent of discussions about parenting, kids’ well-being, and the time that American Moms and Dads devote to family: Research emphasizes that it’s not, of course, quantity but quality that matters when it comes to family time. Kids benefit from careful, loving parental attention in varying doses, and especially when it’s less freighted with stress – from economic worry for less well-off Moms and Dads and from hyper-competitive and excessively attentive affluent ones.

This is all food for thought during this time of family gathering, feasting, and memory creating. Reducing stress of all kinds has clear health benefits and research more and more shows that humans find greater happiness in experiences not things.

Maybe this year it’s worth seeing if Mom, Dad, the kids, cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents can forego the pricey fantasy toys or the giant, costly parties, and see if a scaled-back but family-focused holiday leaves everyone feeling better heading into 2016?




Families, kids feel the sting of shortfalls in parents’ time

Timely support, especially for caregiving

Finding time for friends, ourselves





2 hours,
10 minutes


Amount of time women spend on average each day on parenting



1 hour,
35 minutes


Amount of time men spend on average each day on parenting



3 minutes


Time parents spend on average each day with their kids on
deliberate conversations


2.4 minutes


Time parents spend on average each day reading to their kids


Timely support, especially for caregiving

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It might not seem so key for many of us in perfect health. But an important support we can think about offering during the holiday season and beyond to seniors with diminishing capacities or to ailing friends, family members, and spouses is to spend quality time with them, especially as they deal with needs for continuing therapy and repeated visits with caregivers.

Patients all too often perform poorly in remembering what their physicians told them and what steps they need to take to help themselves get better, research shows. Although some physicians have started to employ high-tech options, including online video recordings of office visits, common sense says that friends and loved ones not only might appreciate but they could benefit from a clear-headed, more impartial guide when they see doctors and other caregivers.

Under the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare, hospitals and other institutions have been under more pressure to providepatients with clearer, better, and often written information about their continued care after discharge. Reform advocates say such steps not only can improve patients’ chances for better recovery, it also may help to keep them from returning, sometimes even sicker because they have failed to take needed medications or to follow appropriate therapies.

It’s true and I’ve written about it before: caregiving, including taking seniors and the ailing for medical attention, has become aquiet but huge concern for American families, costing us billions of dollars and creating great, unrelenting stress for all too many.

Our lawmakers need to hear from more of us about ways to provide relief. If you’re a boss or in a position to better support a worker or colleague so they can tend to the needs of a parent or ailing loved ones, think about finding ways to do so as a seasonal gesture of goodwill – and beyond. And guys, because the research finds that women bear the brunt of caregiving, is there a special holiday accommodation you can give as a great gift?

Finding time for friends, ourselves

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The holidays can be a lonely time for some. They also can provide a timely reminder for many of us about how vital friends and family can be to our health, as research has shown time and again. This includes a study that found that those with few social ties have heightened risk of illness and of dying when sick.

It isn’t easy to maintain friendships when juggling the heavy and increasing responsibilities of work, marriage, and children. But social engagement, research shows, plays an important role in maintaining our well-being, especially if we recognize that making time for a select number of friends can be hugely beneficial.

Adult friendships do change over time and it helps to be aware just how. In the sprawl of contemporary American life, keeping up with friends also can pose special time challenges.

But just as so many Americans have learned to find time for physical exercise, maybe the spirit of the season also can spur us to carve out more time for our best friends, especially if they’re our spouses, siblings, and yes, let’s not forget our furry and four-footed pals, too.




Patrick Malone
Patrick Malone & Associates