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I wonder how many parents read the title and think: ‘Are there any?’ Well, it seems there are quite a few mental health benefits of having children. Although there are quite a few drawbacks as well, here I’m only going to talk about the benefits, as I’m thinking positively today.
Children lower your blood pressure
Researchers at Brigham Young University tested blood pressures of 200 married men and women. They observed that those couples with children had significantly lower blood pressure than those without. It doesn’t mean, however, that the more children you have the better your blood pressure; simply that parents derive a subtle sense of meaning and purpose from life’s stress, which has been shown to be associated with better health outcomes.
Children can entitle you to tax savings
Nowadays, sending your children off to work at a young age and for a pittance is no longer allowed. However, the government allow parents to claim some useful tax benefits on their first two children – it used to be for every child, but no longer. Given the cost of raising children, every penny you can claim is a help.
You learn to be unselfish
Being a parent is a job that never ends. You are at the beck and call of another person that you are responsible for. Because of this being a parent requires that you put the needs of your child before your own. Yet it is when I am looking after my daughter that I realise I love her the most.
Children keep you sane
Despite rumours to the contrary, children don’t always drive their parents crazy. Researchers at Taiwan’s Mental Health Foundation claim the opposite. They interviewed 1,084 randomly selected senior citizens and found that seniors with no children scored 6.4 points lower on a mental health questionnaire than seniors with children. ‘The results shows that people who have children are happier and have greater satisfaction and emotional well-being than those without children,’ says Tom Yang, the study’s lead researcher.
Renew your thirst for knowledge
Most parents will say that their child’s favourite word is ‘why’. The questions children ask in their thirst for knowledge can be fascinating. Although parents may not know all the answers, most will find that the questions kick their own brains into gear as they help look up the answers.
Children make you more attractive
Certainly, many fathers will tell you there’s no better way of garnering female attention than by strolling through the park with a cute (or not so cute) baby. A £200 stroller could elicit more oohs and aahs than a £200,000 sports car.
Children give you an alibi
Looking after the kids can be a useful alibi to get out of unwanted social events. After all, many parents would rather spent their time looking after their young children.
Children increase your self-esteem
Being told by your child that you are the ‘best daddy (or mummy) in the world’ can have a profound effect on your self-esteem. Those little tasks you thought were ‘impossible’ are suddenly achievable, even if that rope-swing or go-cart doesn’t look quite as perfect as you imagined.
Children remind you to stop and smell the roses
Gazing at the stars or watching the clouds pass by or tracing the raindrops on the window – kids find little things wonderfully interesting. Your own cynicism will melt away as you join in and begin to see the world again through their innocent eyes.
Children make you happier
Finally, there is proof to support these claims. A study by the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research found a direct correlation between children and happiness for parents over the age of 40. Researchers surveyed 200,000 parents in 86 countries between 1981 and 2005 and found that from age 40 on, parents with one to three children were considerably more content than childless couples. After age 50, parents were happier than childless couples, regardless of the number of children. Perhaps not too surprising, since most children become easier to care for as they grow older.
The above are just a selection of mental health benefits that I found. There are bound to be some than I missed. I know that I consider my daughter to be a wonderful friend as well, especially now that she also is a parent and knows what parenthood is about.
Susan Butler is an editor for Psychreg. She is passionate about finding ways to lead more balanced lives and improve overall health and well-being.
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