Schedule the next girls’ night out, because your friendships are great for your kids’ health and development
You know in your heart that your girlfriends are super-important in keeping you sane and helping you out of tight spots. But now science is backing up what we already know, in addition to giving us more good news: not only does your social networks of moms make you feel better, it also makes your kids flourish.
According to a new study conducted at University of Tennessee Health Science Center, the more social connections a mother has, the higher her kids scored on early cognitive development tests – and if the mom didn’t have many friends, her kids scored lower.
The parenting study, which was published by JAMA in January, looked at data from over 1,000 families, examining the mom’s social circle as well as the family’s social circle – at the household, family, neighborhood, and community levels.
After correcting for factors like parental IQ and educational level, birth weight, and family income, the study found that moms have an average of 3.5 “social supports.” The more they had over that average, the better their kids did on developmental tests, and the fewer they had under that average, the worse their kids fared.
“Outside the family context, mothers with larger social networks may be able to draw on resources from those networks that alleviate some of the burdens associated with parenting,” study co-author Kaja LeWinn, a psychiatry researcher at the University of California San Francisco, told Reuters.
LeWinn stressed that having mom friends isn’t just about getting actual concrete support, like someone to pick up your kid sick from school or someone to carpool with to sports lessons. It’s also about emotional support and mental health: someone to talk to, to process with, and to hug.
“This may include emotional support, tangible support in the form of babysitting or help with errands, and the transfer of knowledge around high-quality day care or other childhood programs,” LeWinn said. “These resources may reduce parenting stress and improve maternal mental health, both of which are positively associated with child cognitive development.”
Again, any mom who’s gotten to spend a good night talking with friends after a super stressful day with their kids can tell you that friendship is extremely vital to their health and wellbeing.
A night out with lady friends is hard to beat when it comes to letting loose and having fun.
In addition to finding that maternal relationships help moms and their kids, the study also found than any network outside of the nuclear family (mom-dad-kids) helped babies score higher on development tests.
While this new info might be comforting to moms who constantly juggle book clubs and yoga retreats and kombucha exchanges and neighborhood get-togethers, it might be scary for moms who realize that they’re isolated and lonely. Like: you’re already suffering from not having buddies, and now you’re telling me it’s hurting my kids’ brains?
Not to worry. While making friends can be super-hard in adulthood, and while most of us have definitely absolutely been there, there are lots of tips and tricks to building a little community. Here are just a few resources to get you started: