Did You Know? Many Singapore Parents Worry That Their Kids Are Too Short

Have you wondered whether your child is growing well — physically? If so, welcome to the club!

In 2018, a survey was conducted on about 1,000 parents in Singapore, and 42 percent expressed worry that their children were not growing at the same rate as their peers. Anecdotally, height appears to be a particular concern for parents, especially if their children are among the shortest in their class.

Before we fret too much about something that we might not be able to change, let’s look at the facts:

  • According to scientists, up to 80 percent of our height is determined by the DNA sequence variants that we have inherited. However, the genes containing these variants, and how they affect our height, are not fully understood.
  • Other factors that influence height include gender (given similar circumstances, boys tend to be taller than girls), nutrition, and physical activity.
  • Some children are late bloomers and will experience a growth spurt later in life.
  • If your child is suffering from a medical condition, this puts the body under stress, which may impede growth and development.
  • There is a rare condition known as “growth hormone deficiency,” which afflicts one in every 3,800 babies. With this condition, the body is unable to produce enough of the hormone needed for growth and development. The condition is either present at birth, or acquired later in life.
  • You’ve probably come across formulas for predicting your child’s height — you can certainly try them, but for a more accurate answer, do consult a medical professional.

As parents, what’s within our control is making sure that our kids eat well and keep healthy habits. Most parents eventually decide to accept what nature has wrought, although a growing number are choosing to seek medical intervention.

Prefer to take a more proactive approach? Read our tips to find out what you can do! But when all is said and done, our children will need to make the best of what they have — and you will have to guide them on the path to self-acceptance.

Best Foods To Help Kids Grow Taller

We all need a balanced diet of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, but are there specific foods that might give your child a height boost? Here are six foods to try:

  • Eggs (daily consumption could reduce the likelihood of stunting by 47 percent)
  • Cow milk and dairy products (cow milk may be better than plant-based milk for growth, because plant-based protein tends to be lower in quality)
  • Whole grains
  • Beans
  • Fish
  • Fruit

For more information on these foods and their nutritional content, visit the Bone Science website. There is no supplement that has been proven to help people grow taller, says an endocrinologist with the Raffles Medical Group. (Note: Endocrinology is the field of medicine dealing with disorders of the endocrine system and its secretions, i.e. hormones.) 

Does Physical Activity & Rest Affect Height?

Do sports such as basketball or exercises such as skipping help with height growth? Do sports such as weightlifting hinder height growth? Can a lack of sleep affect growth significantly?

A fitness enthusiast has helped to answer these questions on Quora, and it is worth a read. Studies on female gymnasts have indicated a slower rate of height growth when they are in training, but they do catch up and reach their full height potential (based on genetics) once they have quit. There are sports such as swimming and tennis that support a correlation to height, but not causation — one theory is that competitive sports are generally self-selective, i.e. those with the best physique for the sport are chosen to compete.

If you are still keen on getting your child to do specific exercises for height growth, you can refer to Decathlon’s blog for 30 exercises to try.

With regards to sleep, if your child has sleep apnea, you should get that checked out as it will lead to a significant lack of sleep, which may affect growth.

Seeking Medical Help To Grow Taller

According to a local specialist in pediatric endocrinology, height is a diverse variable. In reality, any child within the third to the 97th percentile of growth is considered normal. Those falling below the third percentile might be deemed short, but this is purely statistical, and does not necessarily indicate that the child has an illness.

That said, many of us have preconceived notions about height, especially when it comes to boys. For parents who can afford to consult a professional, their children will be given X-rays to determine their bone age — this refers to the maturity of a child’s skeletal system. A difference between a child’s bone age and chronological age may indicate a growth problem, and you can read more about this here. Based on the specialist’s findings, hormone treatment may be recommended, and this may cost more than S$1,000 a month.

Learning To Accept Oneself

Is your child’s height really an issue, or is it you, the parent who has an issue? If your child is developing normally in other areas, and does not seem to be experiencing a lower quality of life as a result of being shorter, it’s perfectly fine to let things be.

Shorter children may get teased, but studies have also shown that they are not much different from taller children in screens for depression, optimism, asocial behavior, exclusion by peers, and popularity.

As the saying goes, the apple will not fall far from the tree, and this applies to height too. Think about how you’ve adjusted to your own height, and how you’ve made it work for you — if your child should need advice someday, you would be the best person to give it.