Swedish Parent’s Views on Sweden’s Food Temptations and their Effect on Parenting Young Children

‘Children are exposed to temptation all the time’– parents’ lifestyle-related discussions in focus groups was published in Acta Paediatrica (2012), Christina Stenhammar and myself (Michael Wells) headed up this peer reviewed journal article along with A. Åhman, B. Wettergren, B. Edlund, and our advisor, Anna Sarkadi. The article focuses on Swedish parents’ needs, obstacles, and solutions to providing their young children with a healthy lifestyle.

Aim:  To explore parents’ perspectives on providing their preschool child with a healthy lifestyle, including obstacles and resources.

Methods:  Five semi-structured focus group interviews were conducted, with 30 parents of 4-year-olds in Sweden. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed using Systematic Text Condensation.

Results:  Four themes emerged from the qualitative analysis: Lifestyle –‘The way you live is parents’ responsibility’, Challenges to promote children’s healthy lifestyle, Support from professionals, and peers might facilitate, and Request for an overall responsibility from society. Parents felt that they were role models for their child’s lifestyle, a concept including many factors. Attractive and tempting sedentary activities and unhealthy foods were perceived as obstacles, and parents were frustrated by the media’s contradictory lifestyle messages. Child health services were expected to more actively invite parents to discuss their child’s lifestyle issues. Parents desired some collective responsibility for children’s lifestyles through agencies, services and media messages that support and promote healthy choices.

Conclusion:  Parents struggled to give their children a healthy lifestyle and the ‘temptations’ of daily unhealthy choices were causing hassles and conflicts. Parents desired professional support from preschools, Child Health Centers and a collective responsibility from society to create uniform guidelines about healthy eating and exercise. Parents groups were mentioned as peer support.

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