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Family Life and Physical Activity

Family has always played a very significant role in the development of a child. The relationships between the members of the family, the rules in the family, the discussion of particular situations, parents’ active participation in the life of their children contribute a lot to the upbringing of a child as an independent personality. The atmosphere in the family directly influences children and forms their own conception of their future family. Undoubtedly, besides forming child’s psychology, family plays an important role in the maintenance of a child’s health. Therefore, physical activity should be an essential part of every family life. Physical activity from the early childhood helps to form healthy habits and thus to lay the foundation of a full-fledged development.
Today under fast tempo of life, the majority of parents are worried about their careers, their ability to earn enough money to provide their families. Paying much attention to the well-being of their children, parents often fail to take into account their children’s leisure-time. With the great development of computer games, children spend more and more time in front of computers and TV-sets, which favors the development of a number of diseases. “Inactive children, when compared with active children, weigh more, have higher blood pressure and have lower levels of heart-protective "good" cholesterol” (Red Branch).
It is obvious that for parents it is necessary to plan their children’s time so that they could spend more time in the open air, playing with their peers or with the members of the family. Active games do not only favor physic development of a child but also help to form team spirit, an ability to cooperate and to help others and at the same time to be able to lose and to win with dignity. While playing, children can easier find common language with their friends and with their relatives.
Moreover, games play an indispensable role in the strengthening of relations in the family. On the one hand, there may be problems with children’s unwillingness to play outside instead of chatting in the Internet. Then the parents’ main aim is to arouse their interest and to show the excitedness of the game. Children should realize that if they do not take part in the game they miss a lot of interesting. On the other hand, children who like physical activity may lose this interest because of parents’ inactivity and indifference to their life. If they observe their parents leading passive life, they might perceive it as an example for imitation. Therefore, the role of parents in planning children’s leisure-time is of great importance.
The researches show that for the last decades the number of overweight children has doubled. Moreover, in the majority of cases obese children become obese adults, which leads to the increase of percentage of overweight people in the society (Biller, 2002). Therefore, active childhood guarantees healthy life. Assuredly, different families choose different ways of involving their children into activity. Families might have their favorite sports, such as windsurfing, fishing, playing basketball or soccer, or they can invent new types of activity every time. Thus, they allow their children to choose the game or if it is a new game every time, children are more interested because they have to learn new rules.
In order to learn parents’ opinion about the role of activity in family life and about their interaction with children, I have observed a group of children aged 9-10 years who were playing Frisbee at a playground. Not far from the playground, there were their parents, who chatted much and only sometimes looked at their children. I have noticed that children were very enthusiastic about the game, they threw the Frisbee and counted the points. For them it was a sort of competition. All of them wanted to catch the disc and when some of them did not manage to do it, he or she was very upset. In the group, there were three boys and four girls. The parents who were sitting not far away, from time to time cast a glance at the playground to make sure that their children were safe and sound. However, none of them attempted to take part in the game or to encourage her child. I would like to highlight that there were only mothers with their children, and no fathers. Watching the children, I could not say that they were absolutely involved into the game and did not pay any attention to their mothers. Instead, occasionally they tried to draw their attention and either threw Frisbee not far from them or just called to the parents to watch how they were throwing the disk. Several times a girl asked her mother to count her points. Mothers at first willingly answered their children; however, they did not play with them and continued talking. Despite the fact that all of them were dressed casually and any time could take the lead and organize some kind of a game together with all parents and children, they found it more interesting to cry out some words of cheer.
Judging by the manner of communication of parents among themselves and the children, I could definitely say that all of them were friends. Children knew each other well and mothers seemed to spend much time together. Being an onlooker I could make a conclusion that parents were more interested in discussing their favorite topics and were glad that their children were engaged into some kind of activity. Children did not seem to be much upset that their parents did not take part in the game, though for the majority of them it would be interesting to play with their parents too or at least to be watched and encouraged by their mothers.
After the children finished the game, I asked the parents several questions about the importance of active life and the role of activities in the family life. All the parents agreed that activities should be an essential part of every child’s mode of life and that is why they took their children to the playground every day. Three mothers of seven said that they asked their children what they wanted to play and helped them to choose the game for the next day. Jessica, 35, said, “I think my son should spend at least two hours outdoors every day. He’s a boy and he is very active. My aim is to arrange his leisure time so that it was useful for him, so that the games he plays developed him and his team spirit.” All the mothers confirmed that they knew how important it was to plan their family leisure time and to involve all members of the family into activities. Monica, 32, stated, “When Sarah was born, my husband and I had already been going in for diving for several years. Therefore, we tried to cultivate love for diving in Sarah since her early childhood. Now we do it all together and Sarah really likes it.” However, when the parents were asked why they did not take part in the game together with their children, nearly all of them expressed an idea that they should not interfere with the games of their children and prevent them from communication. Eliza, 28, said, “When a group of children is playing I don’t think there is a place for parents. We would hamper in their free communication and break their own atmosphere.” However, opinions differed and Helen, 30, said, “My daughter does not want me to play with her and her friends. I do not know why, but it isn’t interesting for her.”
Thus, by the example of this group of children and parents, I could notice that parents realized the importance of physical activity for children and its benefit for their future life. For example, Rebecca, 35, said, “My brother is obese, because unlike me, he always spent his free time in front of TV, he has always been a fat child and I do not want my child to be alike.” All of them agreed that active games outdoors help to maintain health and to control the children’s weigh. They contributed much to the physical development of their children and encouraged them in taking up sports. Caroline, 36, noted, “I never forced my son to take up karate but I was driving at this idea. I showed him different pictures and told how great it is to be strong and brave. I think it was useful”. Besides, all parents had their own opinion about children’s games and family games. They considered it wrong to interfere with children’s games and they preferred to fix a border between activities with the participation of all members of the family and of children only.
To make a conclusion, judging by the observations, I can say that though at first sight, the parents’ opinion could seem right, it was obvious that children wanted their moms to take active part in their games. I might assume that family games were not enough for boys and girls who wanted to spend more time with their parents. While the parents realized the importance of physical activity for their children, it seemed to me that for them it was more like a duty, which they had to do. From my perspective, it is a wrong approach to the issue. Only when parents are eager to spend as much time with their children as possible and are interested in their children’s occupations, the up-bringing will be of benefit to the children.

American College of Sports Medicine. (n.d.). Exercise is medicine. Retrieved July 7, 2008, from http://www.exerciseismedicine.org/taskforce/index.htm
Biller, H. B. (2002). Creative Fitness: Applying Health Psychology and Exercise Science to Everyday Life. Auburn House Paperback.
Red Branch. (2007). Physical Activity. Retrieved July 7, 2008 from http://www.red-branch.com/physical_activity.htm

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