Even though more than half of American children are worried about terrorism,two-thirds of American families do not have an emergency plan in place in case of an attack,according to a new survey about parents,children and their well-being.
One-third of parents have not talked to their children about war or terrorism in the past year,according to the survey released Wednesday by KidsPeace,the American Psychological Association and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.
“Apparently the terror alerts are not sinking in enough to encourage families to create a safety plan,” said Alvin F. Poussaint,psychiatry professor at Harvard Medical School and national director of KidsPeace the National Center for Kids Overcoming Crisis.
Lewis P. Lipsitt,founder of the Brown University Child Study Center and national director of KidsPeace center for research,shared Poussaint's concern.
“When we find parents aren't talking to their kids about the war and terrorism,it makes us wonder what they are talking about,” Lipsitt said.
Fifty-seven percent of parents say they would welcome more help figuring out what to say to their children about threats such as terrorism. Forty-one percent said they do not need this information.
Poussaint and Lipsitt presented the terrorism data as a portion the “2003 Annual Meaningful Time Check-Up on U.S. Children & Families,” a survey that includes data on a range of factors affecting the well-being of American children.
The survey says that a vast majority of parents — 94 percent — know in theory that “meaningful time” time spent talking to and engaging with their children on major issues such as violence and substance abuse is important.
The telephone survey done June 2 to 8 by the Polling Company included interviews with 1,000 parents or caregivers with children under the age of 18 living at home. It has a margin of error of 3.5 percent.
“The good news is many parents are doing what they can to help their students be healthier and happier,” Poussaint said. “Still millions of adults say they don't have the money,time and resources to do all they could for their kids.”
Asked to grade other parents on the amount of time that they spend with their children,51 percent of respondents gave them a “C” on an “A” to “F” scale. Asked the same question about their own parenting,56 percent of respondents gave themselves a “B.”
Parents gave the nation's children a mean happiness score of 6.2 on a 1-to-10 scale,10 being the happiest. Asked to rate their own children's happiness,parents provided a mean score of 8.5.
Roxanne Spillett,president of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America,said children would be better off in the long run if their parents spend time with them when they are young.
“There are probably just a few certainties in life,” Spillett said. “One of them is childhood has an expiration date.”
Despite their desire to spend time with their children,32 percent of parents said they do not have enough time to talk to their children about their problems.
C.T. O'Donnell,president and CEO of KidsPeace,said parents can practice sports with children or play a board game in the evening instead of passively sitting in front of the television.
Spillett suggested turning everyday activities such as doing dishes and long car trips into opportunities to talk with children about their lives.
In other findings,the survey reported that 54 percent of respondents do not have time to take part in physical activities with their children. Forty-three percent of respondents cited limited access to playgrounds or parks as a reason.
Almost half of American parents have not spoken with their children in the last year about sex,and nearly one-fourth have not talked to their children about drugs,tobacco or alcohol.
In addition,a fourth of parents say that their children have little or no access to health care,and half say their children eat some,but not nearly enough,healthy foods.
Fifty percent of parents say they do not have enough time to educate their children by reading to them,taking them to cultural events and helping them with their homework.
Survey sponsors encouraged parents interested in improving the time that they spend with their children to take the yearly survey on meaningful time available at www.kidsday.net. Parents can assess their performance and compare their responses to those of other parents around the country.
The survey's release is tied to National Kids Day,a series of celebrations for children and their families on Sunday in U.S. cities and on U.S. military bases. Activities include picnics and parades.
In Washington,National Kids Day runs from noon to 6 p.m. on the Ellipse between the Washington Monument and the White House. Details of celebrations in many cities are available at the same Web site.
“When you think about it,there's a Mother's Day,a Father's Day,even a Groundhog Day,but no day to honor our children,” Spillett said. “It's time we get a place on the national calendar.”