How Moms Spend Time With Their Kids — And Why It’s A Problem

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Quick question: When you’re hanging out and enjoying downtime with your children, what are you probably doing?

If you’re like most moms, whatever you do typically involves sitting down, like eating dinner or watching something on a screen. That’s the result of a new survey, which asked 1,154 mothers with kids ages 5 to 18 how they spend time with their offspring.

Sharing a meal was the No. 1 activity, with 90 percent of moms saying they had eaten with their kids at least once in the past week. Watching TV came in second; 79 percent of mothers copped to family time in front of the tube a minimum of once weekly.

Helping with homework ranked third, with 65 percent of moms responding that they did this at least once a week, according to the survey, which was sponsored by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a national organization that aims to help children develop lifelong healthy habits, in partnership with Woman’s Day magazine.

What most mothers aren’t doing with their kids is moving around. And that poses a problem, the survey suggests, with childhood obesity so prevalent (more than a third of kids and teens are overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and screens keeping kids from getting their recommended hour of daily exercise.

Only half the mothers polled had gone for a walk, run, or bike ride with their kids in the past week; and just 26 percent had played a sport, run around, or danced together, reported the survey.

“The survey results underline the increasingly sedentary lifestyle many of our kids are leading,” Howell Wechsler, CEO of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, said in a news release. “The good news is, there is opportunity to change this trend — and families can make small changes that make a big difference.”

Working in more physical activity when you’re hanging out with your kids doesn’t have to mean overhauling your schedule: Even 10 or 15 minutes of exercise a day can pay off.

“Going for after-dinner walks, dancing to songs in the living room, even popping in a DVD of Zumba, are really easy and get everyone moving together,” Michelle Owens, national adviser for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, tells Yahoo Parenting. 

You can also tap in to your kids’ natural curiosity by organizing a mini scavenger hunt in the house or yard, or inspiring their sense of competition with an obstacle course or a game of kickball, she says.

And while every mom wants her children to develop healthy habits, it’s worth keeping in mind that it’s not always easy to find the time to work up a sweat with your kids. “Parents who aren’t able to participate in much physical activity with their children don’t need to feel guilty,” Amy Morin, psychotherapist and author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, tells Yahoo Parenting. 

“If you don’t get home in time to go for a walk every day, or you have a physical health problem that impairs your ability to get active, focus on spending quality time with your child in other ways.” Take steps to ensure your child is getting adequate exercise by encouraging her to join sports teams or bringing kids to the playground and watching from the sidelines.

In a crazy-busy world where it’s often a challenge to carve out family time, any way you spend time with your kids is a good thing, says Morin, boosting a child’s self-esteem, improving communication, and just keeping moms and kids connected.