Wednesday, February 12, 2014

On exposing children to the sun

Like any other child of the 80s, especially one that grew up in New Zealand, the 'slip slop slap' message regarding the sun is second nature to me. Before we go into the sun, I do my best* to get the kids to slip on a hat, slop on some sunscreen, and slap ... I can't remember what the slap was. Maybe it was slap on a hat and slip on something else.  Spilled sunscreen, perhaps?  Hmmmm. Well, details aside, it's the sentiment that counts - keep your kids out of the sun. The sun here is nasty. Melanoma rates are high, and being burnt is really sore. And if the random old lady that yelled at me from her car recently to tell me that part of my baby was in the sun is anything to go by, these ideas are fairly mainstream. Although I wouldn't recommend yelling the advice to a harried mother from a car as your communications medium unless you want a glare of doom, but that's a whole other rant. 

"Summer-time frolics"
The idea of sun awareness wasn't around in 1945. In fact, sunbathing is recommended for your children, every day. This sun bathing ought to proceed as follows: "commence by exposing the limbs to direct sunshine, then expose the chest for a few minutes, and finally expose the whole body." Mothercraft notes that children who stay in the sun all day may become "overheated", but sun bathing is "so good for us all." 

Now, I do get the benefit of Vitamin D, and don't want my children to be Vitamin D deficient. There is speculation that children aren't getting enough Vitamin D, and studies show that Vitamin D supplements don't work. So, the sun it is. But, I really don't want to un-slip slop slap either, let alone sun-bathing every day. As someone who grew up being made aware of the dangers of the sun, especially the risks of skin cancer, making my kids sunbathe feels counter-intuitive. My children's exposure to the sun is not in the middle of the day, and always under a layer of sun screen. Not to mention the fact that the weather here is pants at present to recently a sun-bath would be more akin to a nasty, cold shower, so not something to be done daily anyway. 

So, I think this is some advice I'm going to ignore. Like the advice on how to give an enema, some of the tidbits contained within Modern Mothercraft really are truly dated. 

*Sadly, a certain toddler likes to throw hats sometimes, rather than wear them. Not sure what the authors of Mothercraft would say about that one. 

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