As parents, we all want the best for our kids, right? We teach them manners, try to limit screen time, and even research tirelessly issues such as education, vaccines and sleep concerns. But what if that love we have for them, that all-consuming love, blinds us to reality? How far does our love for them go?
I’m all about accepting children as the perfectly imperfect beings they are. Hey, yesterday my daughter happily splashed around in the toilet water before I could stop her, so who am I to judge? A recent study got me thinking, though. In the Health Survey for England 2015, researchers found that out of 10 mothers, nine of them thought their overweight children were at the right weight. That number dropped to about half of mothers of obese children.
Parents: this is alarming.
We, the majority of us, are failing miserably to see how unhealthy our kids are. Gillian Prior, head of health at the National Centre for Social Research warns, “Parents want to do the best for their children and the difficulty of recognising obesity in their own child could be putting them at risk.”
Here in America, where more than a third of adults are obese, and with child obesity still a public health crisis, it’s worth considering that we have a somewhat skewed reality of what a healthy weight for children is. We are busier and more stressed than our grandparents’ generation. We live in an age of fast food drive-thrus and convenient snacks. We buy organic food pouches for our kids because it’s quick and easy with hardly any mess, but contains high amounts of concentrated sugar. To some degree, I dare say it’s not completely our fault; that some level of blame needs to be put on the food industry itself.
My daughter just turned a year old. She’s now able to walk without falling down every few steps, but the time will come quickly when the balance between watching TV and running around outside will determine her overall health. And I feel that pressure to make sure she stays at a weight her pediatrician will be satisfied with.
The most important thing we as parents can do in our children’s lives is lead by example. Prepare weekly grocery lists in advance, learn about and read food labels, and minimize processed foods. Even more than fats, notice how much sugar your kids are eating. As a family, ride bikes, hike and throw dance parties together. Work with your pediatrician when he or she has a concern about weight. They have your child’s best interest in mind. We have to start doing better for our kids and their health. And it starts with us as parents.