Parenting and family traditions have significantly changed for several decades and today modern families spend less quality time together. A good example of quality time is the family dinner when we not only connect with our children, but set basic examples on how to behave and what to eat. It turns out that family dinners are way more than just evening meals.
People’s first and basic lessons about life come from the family in two ways – through communication and through personal examples. If you teach your children to be hard-working, honest, self-conscious and honorable persons who know what is good for them, they will most probably grow up worthy of your lessons. Well, this won’t happen if you don’t show how important these lessons are for you, too. If you are indulging in French fries, barbequed meat and sugary cakes, you can’t expect your child to like healthier choices. And one of the first lessons for the child should be about healthy lifestyle – provide fresh fruits and vegetables and food free of chemicals to the table and show how important fresh air and nature are for all of us.
Lessons are important, but there are other reasons why we should gather around the table every evening. It has been proved that family meals improve the communication between members of the family. During this so-called “quality time”, we are doing some activity that is meaningful for the parent and the child, unconsciously getting to know each other. Eating dinner together, face to face, without the TV turned on, or some tech gadgets beeping and requiring our attention, provides the perfect opportunity to connect. Creating special family time is essential for the relationship between parents and children, but it doesn’t have to only during dinner time. You can cook together, play some quick games outside or while setting the table, and most importantly, you need to show kids you listen when they speak.
According to a recent research, children who have regular meals with their families have a 42 percent lower risk for drinking alcohol and 50 percent lower risk of smoking during teenage years, compared to those kids who spend less time with their parents. Statistical data also show that family dinner has a positive effect on various other dangerous conditions such as eating disorders and childhood obesity.
Another research, published last week in the Journal of Adolescent Health, says that family dinners not only help children avoid risky behaviors, but also help them in school and make them generally happy. Just little over 26,000 Canadian children ages 11 to 15 answered questions about the frequency of family dinners, communication with the parents, emotions and life satisfaction. The results clearly showed that the more dinners a week, the better.
It seems that among other benefits, family dinners contribute to mental health, especially in little kids. And a big part of the allure of family dinners will always remain the ritual, the feeling that you are part of a tradition, of something bigger than you. A recent statistic by Unilever on the importance of shared family mealtime unveiled that most people believe that the loss of shared mealtimes also leads to a loss of family traditions. What’s Christmas without the family Christmas meal, after all?