Being a parent isn’t easy—and everyone does it a little differently. Some families have two working parents; others have a stay-at-home parent; some do it alone. Some let their kids cry it out; others rush in before the first tear falls. Some put kids in time-out; others post gold stars on good behavior charts.
I’m not here to engage in these debates or perpetuate the so-called “Mommy Wars” that pit parents against each other. Instead, I want to focus on what brings moms and dads together: the hope that their children live healthy, happy, and productive lives.
Parents work hard to achieve these goals, but it can feel like an uphill fight. You try to get your kids to eat right, but they see unhealthy foods and drinks everywhere. You want them to go out and play, but too often the parks are closed or unsafe. When communities lack these healthy resources, it increases risk for a variety of serious health problems, including childhood obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
The organization where I work, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, recently committed $500 million toward the goal of ensuring that all children in the United States grow up at a healthy weight by 2025. It is part of our broader effort to build a Culture of Health in every community, where children and families are surrounded by healthy options every day, no matter who they are, where they live, or how much money they have.
We need parents to demand and make healthy choices for their families, but we know they can’t do it alone. Everyone has a role to play in keeping our children healthy. For example, parents don’t decide what gets served in the school cafeteria, education and policy leaders do. There’s good news to report here: school foods have gotten much healthier in recent years. Parents overwhelmingly support these changes, and increasingly students favor them. Let’s make sure that trend continues.
It’s the same with child care, preschool, and afterschool programs. Parents want their kids to get plenty of activity throughout the day and consume only healthy foods and beverages. No TV time, soda or sugary “juice drinks,” please!
To keep our children healthy, we need you to lead the charge. You are—and always will be—your kids’ most important advocates. We need you to talk to your child’s daycare or school about making healthy changes. Work with leaders in your community to make it easier for kids to walk or bike to school, or play in a local park. If you eat out, keep an eye open for menus labeled with nutrition information―they’ll be rolling out more widely next year. For more ideas about how you can get involved, check out Moms Rising at momsrising.org.