- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 31, 2003

Each year, without fail, we Americans have our cars serviced, change the batteries in our smoke alarms and check our furnaces for safe operation. These actions are routine — things we never forget to do. Yet, when it comes to our most important responsibility — our children — we sometimes forget to take stock of how we’re doing as parents. We know that parents and other adult caregivers are the most important aspect of our children’s healthy development. So, why don’t we have a regular, recognized way to check up on how we’re caring for our kids?

Three years ago, a movement to rally American public opinion in favor of an annually recognized day to honor and celebrate children was launched nationally. Such a day would draw attention to the importance of adults and children spending meaningful time together in a way that both kids and grown-ups consider engaging, important and enjoyable.

At the forefront of this effort were Boys & Girls Clubs of America, which serves 3.6 million youth every year, and KidsPeace, the National Center for Kids Overcoming Crisis. Called National KidsDay, it was decided that its observance would take place on the first Sunday of each August.

National KidsDay provides an opportunity to take stock of how much meaningful time we dedicate to our children. To help parents evaluate the amount of time spent ensuring our children’s health and happiness every day, Boys & Girls Clubs of America and KidsPeace have developed the Annual Meaningful Time Check-Up on U.S. Children & Families.

The results of a nationwide survey of 1,000 parents of children under 18 confirms that, although parents clearly understand the importance of spending meaningful time with their children, in many areas critical to their physical and emotional well-being, many adults say they do not have the time, the internal capability, skills or external resources to do as much for their children as they feel they should.

In a dramatic confirmation of the premise of National KidsDay, an overwhelming 94 percent of American parents agree that there is a direct relationship between the amount of meaningful time adults spend with children and the major issues facing youth today — such as fear of terrorism, discipline problems, youth violence, substance abuse and other dangers to their health and happiness.

According to the survey, many parents spend three or more hours per week exercising with their kids, participating in their education and eating nutritious home-cooked meals together. On the other hand, millions of adults told us that, in the last year, they had not talked to their kids about such challenging, sometimes life-threatening issues, as sexual activity, drugs, tobacco, alcohol, dealing with a kidnapping threat or a terrorist attack and war. If millions of parents aren’t talking about these things, our children may well be at higher risk than they need to be.

Perhaps this is why, when participants in the survey were asked to grade other parents on their parenting efforts, they gave them a “C” (they gave themselves a “B”). Overall, their perception of how healthy and happy America’s kids are on a scale of 1-10 was a 6.2.

While there were many positive results in this new annual “check-up,” it is clear parents need more information and that we have more work to do. The study gives all of us, as a nation, a real opportunity to evaluate ourselves and our interaction with our children. It is a very simple, yet critical, way for us to get a sense of how well we are faring at the most important work of our lives — raising the next generation of Americans.

There is no question that spending “meaningful time” with kids on a daily basis boosts children’s self-esteem and self-confidence, and contributes to their ability to become healthy, happy and productive citizens. We encourage every American parent and caregiver to celebrate National KidsDay this Sunday to remind our children, and ourselves, of what is important.

This year, you will take 10 minutes to make sure you have fresh batteries in your smoke alarms. Please take 10 minutes to give yourself the check-up and perhaps get some new ideas for the most crucial job you’ll ever have — the job of parent.

You might be surprised at how great a job you’re doing, or you may be inspired to do more with your children. But, at the end of the day, you’ll have invested a bit more time in caring for your kids — time wellspent by any measure.

Roxanne Spillett is president of Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Dr. Alvin Poussaint is a Harvard psychiatrist and the national director of the KidsPeace Lee Salk Center for Research. (www.kidsday.net)

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide