|Written By Allen|
Sociologists agree that the simple act of eating food in groups lends itself to close relationships. As a social bedrock, family meals promote conversation, the sharing of ideas, and a sense of belonging.
Most American families are coping with long workdays, after-school activities, and an otherwise extremely hectic schedule. All too often, family meals are the first thing to get squeezed out of the schedule. Just one or two generations ago, it was the norm to see family members sit together, bow their heads in prayer, say "please" and "thank you", and ask about the day each family member has had. But now, the family dinner is more out of Norman Rockwell than in American reality. If you want to raise well adjusted, caring, and achievement oriented children, bringing back the family meal is imperative.
The Bureau of Labor statistics reports that the average American family spends more than $2000 per year on dinners away from home, with 10 percent of those dinners coming from McDonalds. More than half of the dinners eaten by overweight American children are consumed in front of the television. But meals eaten with family consist about 50% more fruits and vegetables than meals consumed alone. Family meals are three times more likely to include low-fat choices and that 40 percent less soda is consumed at family meals.
Eating dinner as a family instills the importance of good nutrition for our children. A Harvard University study of 16,000 nine-year olds found that those who ate dinner with their parents regularly are more likely to have higher intakes of essential nutrients and vitamins. A parent who commits to a healthy diet will encourage their children to recognize the importance of good nutrition. Mealtime is also an excellent time to teach your children proper behavior as well as good nutrition. Sitting down for a family meal is a symbol of love, connections, and communications. Family meals reflect involved parents, who want the opportunity both to talk and to listen to what their kids have to say. Mealtimes can provide quality time for the whole household, fostering family unity and trust, and providing a setting for moral and intellectual discussions that reflect family values. Chatting around the dinner table encourages children to talk to their parents about sensitive issues. This is also a great time to reinforce family traditions and cultural heritage. Family meals may actually enhance the well-being of teens. A study reported in the 2003 Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine found that adolescents who frequently sat down to family meals had better grades, less depression, and were less likely to drink alcohol, smoke, or use marijuana than kids who ate with their families less than twice a week.
Picking up take-out, ordering pizza. or going out to eat still counts as a family meal. Even when you don't cook at home, take uninterrupted time to eat and enjoy one another's company. Families that eat together more than likely stay strong and well balanced together. I realize that our crazy, commute fueled, long work hours lifestyle makes it quite hard to find the strength and energy to sit down and have a formal meal together. Start slowly, and build up to a number that works with everyone's schedule. Your children will thank you for it (probably later, much later)!