2010 California Parent Survey: a parent’s perspective

Happiness and health. When it comes down to it, that’s perhaps all that most parents want for our children. It’s a simple enough goal. But we’re passionate in our efforts to guide – in some cases steer – our kids down a path leading there. Along the way, we’re bombarded with advice about how to be the perfect parent – from fellow parents, the media, parenting “experts”, teachers, our own parents, and, of course, our kids, who usually have no shortage of opinions on what we should do. And we’re often not quite sure that we’re making the right decisions.

So it’s heartening to see that responses from the 2010 California Parent Survey indicate that parents, by and large, seem to be doing fairly well by their kids.

We talk with teachers about our children’s academic progress (91%) and volunteer at school (58% of kids have parents who volunteered in the last six months). We make sure our kids have health insurance (94%) and visit the doctor at least annually (79%). We try to have family dinners together at least five times a week (parents say this happens for 76% of children) and read with our kids (about two-thirds of parents of 0-5 year-olds read at least 5-6 times a week with their families, parents say).

Some of us accomplish all of this under heavy burdens that go well beyond the simple yet commendable accomplishment of just getting our kids dressed in the morning and off to school on time. Parents of about a quarter of California children (26%) say they’ve needed help with depression since becoming a parent, and the same percentage of parents say their income is not sufficient to meet their children’s essential needs – food, clothing, and shelter.

Certainly, there are areas for improvement. According to the survey, not all of us talk with our kids about sexual activity (these conversations have occurred for just 43%) or alcohol consumption (64%). Parents also indicate that roughly 15% of children live in households with at least one person who smokes, and about one in ten youth ages 14-17 may be suffering from depression (11 percent).

But as California parents strive to do their best, it’s important, too, that we remember a central message from this report: “On the whole, the survey’s findings are encouraging, with the majority of California’s children experiencing positive health and well-being within nurturing family environments.”

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