From the cartoon-filled packaging of on-the-go food containers to the mesmerizing number of screens available for watching and gaming, today’s kids have no shortage of options that compete for their attention and, ultimately, their health. Faced with mounting priorities from work to extracurricular activities, parents are hard-pressed to find time for family walks or cooking a healthy meal together. It’s far too easy for families to fall into unhealthy routines.

Seated activity

This reality was highlighted in a recent national survey of moms, which found the top three activities that moms and children do together are eating a meal (90 percent), watching television (79 percent), and doing homework (65 percent). This type of sedentary lifestyle has contributed to the stark reality that 1 in 3 of today’s youth are overweight or obese.

With so many factors working against our children’s health, it is important that families and communities work together to ensure that kids have healthy options available wherever they are and the skills needed to make healthier choices.

"If you’re looking for ways to take a more active role in your child’s health, start by incorporating simple, fun ways to be more active and eat healthy at home."

When kids benefit

For working parents, it’s not easy to join school or afterschool health initiatives due to demanding schedules, but increasingly, we’re seeing these places make a stronger effort to engage parents. And that’s a great thing: Research supports that parent engagement in school is associated with helping their children to avoid unhealthy behaviors.

Family wellness nights are one of the most successful initiatives we’re seeing from schools and afterschool programs that we work with, where parents are invited to learn about healthy initiatives offered at school, after school and in their communities. Increasingly, schools and afterschool sites are opening their doors to families during evenings and weekends for recreation or health education programs.

Many of our award-winning schools are also inviting parents to join walking or running clubs before or after school or to participate in community “fun runs” with their child.

A role for all

Kids need to see healthy habits modeled by all the adults that they look up to. In addition to finding ways to engage parents onsite, schools and afterschool programs can help translate health behaviors to the home by sharing educational resources and strategies to increase physical activity and healthy eating through e-mail, social media or newsletters.

If you’re looking for ways to take a more active role in your child’s health, start by incorporating simple, fun ways to be more active and eat healthy at home. Try serving a new vegetable for dinner or scheduling time to take a family bike ride. Consider joining your school’s parent teacher organization or attending the next school board meeting to learn about available healthy initiatives and how you can get involved.

There is too much at stake and our children’s futures are too important not to work together to provide a healthier path forward for our kids.