Of all the things parents despair about—and there are many—their kids' eating habits are high on the list. This truth receives fresh confirmation from a survey by the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and KidsPeace. Among parents with kids under age 18 living at home, 51 percent subscribed to the view that "my children eat some nutritious, healthy foods, but not nearly enough." The problem is aggravated by the busy schedules of kids and parents alike, which cut into the frequency with which kids get some home cooking. As you can see by the chart below, a minority of kids get an average of two home-cooked meals per day. Moreover, two-thirds of the parents join their offspring for 10 or fewer home-cooked meals per week.
The news is also mixed on the emotional front. Asked how often in the past year their kids "seemed sad or had unusual changes in their behavior that worry you," 5 percent said "very often" and 17 percent said "somewhat often"; 37 percent said "not very often" and 39 percent said "not often at all." Although 65 percent of parents said they have "plenty of time" to talk with their children "about their problems, fears or questions," that leaves a sizable minority who do not.
Nonetheless, most parents think their kids are all right. Asked to rate their children's "health and happiness" on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 the best), parents gave a mean answer of 8.5. By comparison, when asked to rate American kids in general, respondents gave a mean answer of 6.2. The disparity is unsurprising, since there's nothing like being a parent to give you a low opinion of other parents. Respondents were asked to grade parents on spending "meaningful time" with their kids in ways crucial to the youngsters' well-being. Most parents gave themselves an A (32 percent) or a B (56 percent). In rating other parents, just one in five handed out an A (4 percent) or a B (16 percent), with similar numbers giving a D (15 percent) or an F (4 percent). The rest gave other parents a C.