What do children need most from their parents?
Love, time, and direction.
A recent New York Times article highlights the decline of family togetherness. Many families now spend most of their leisure time plugged in—to separate channels, websites, or play lists--even when they are together. It’s a trend that not only deprives our children of meaningful time and guidance but also worsens their health.
More children than ever suffer from weight problems, plus the host of emotional and physical problems that result. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 18% of teenagers weigh in as obese, not just overweight. The statistics are even more disturbing for younger children: a full 20% of children ages 6-12 are obese.
Add in the additional numbers of children who are merely overweight and the total becomes disheartening: roughly one-third of all children today are overweight or obese
This extra weight adds up to long-term consequences. A child who is obese at age 13 “has an 80 percent chance of becoming an obese adult.” And children who are overweight are more likely to feel depressed, suffer lower self-esteem, and become isolated and sad. Increasingly, children require treatment for what used to be middle-age problems tied to sedentary lifestyles: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
When I was growing up, children played actively for hours without a second thought. Not so today.
Technology’s a tough competitor for our children’s time. But the real problem is not technology itself—it’s parenting. A 2011 study, for example, links childhood obesity to maternal employment---the more hours a mother works, the more likely it is that her child will be overweight. The lack of time together results in lost opportunities for guidance and oversight, not just in moral or academic areas, but also in the basics of healthy living.
Our children need us to model good eating habits, teach them to choose healthy foods, and get them up and moving.