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A family who eat together stay together……

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Courtesy of almost every family sitcom I watched growing up, the family dinner, as we know it is the proper scenario for portraying a happy functional family. Although in the dramas, it was often a time of at least one fight over the saltshaker; a child talking with food full in their mouth and a few failed attempts of the parents trying to find out from the children how school was. Though this scenario may sound very cliche, this familiar scene highlights an important part of being a family, a meaningful gathering, a sacred time – dinner.

I understand that with this fast-paced economic world that we now live in, dad and mum are barely able to catch a glimpse of each other – as one struggles to be home to take over watching the children, the other one dashes off to catch up with work. But with several family breakdowns around us every day, research is depicting that more family gathering has the potential to strengthen family bonds and help to reduce family dysfunctionalities. Perhaps it is time to turn tables around and start to reconsider reinforcing daily family meals.

Let’s talk about some proven reasons why family dinners are important.

  • Better family relationships– There is a true saying that says that ‘a family that prays together, stays together’ but here is another true saying: ‘the family that eats and communicates together raise well-adjusted children and confident parents. Eating meals together provides a daily time for the whole family to be together. For the younger children, it is a good routine that will develop their sense of security and a feeling of belonging in the family. For the older children/ teenagers, they see their parents as a constantly present figure and research says that 71% of teenagers would consider talking, catching up and spending time with family members that are constantly there.
  • Trainable/Teachable children– I am particularly careful with my choice of words here because family dinners do not automatically equate to excellent children but it develops the platform to train and teach children to become excellent. When the Cincinnati Children’s hospital medical centre did a study on five hundred teenagers, they discovered that children whose parents ate dinner with them five times a week or more were least likely to be on drugs, to be depressed or be in trouble with the law. They were also more likely to do well in school and be surrounded by a supportive circle of friends. By contrast, the more poorly adjusted teens ate with their parents only three times a week or less.
  • Healthier food choices– everyone at least would acknowledge the importance of eating right whether we live by it or not. It is right to say that eating family dinner is associated with healthy dietary food patterns. A survey carried out in 2000 revealed that 9-14-year-olds who have dinner with their families most frequently consumed more fruits and vegetables and less soda and fried foods. The survey’s lead researcher noted that family dinners allow for both discussions of nutrition (and) provision of healthful foods. The multiplier effect of this is that young children are less likely to be overweight or obese because they eat regular nutritious, home cooked meals and can also help in making or serving those meals, which develops their domesticity.
  • Stress Control– Asides from a demanding job, there are several other stressors around us that affect our abilities and capabilities to function as a human being. Parents often assume that they are the only ones that are stressed out but children also often get stressed by issues such as hectic school work, approaching examinations, bullying schoolmate, puberty, coping peer pressure. With everyone in the family having the tendencies to be stressed out, finding time to eat and cool off with the family leave you feeling less stressed. A survey conducted on IBM employees revealed that sitting down for a family meal helped working mums to reduce the tension and strain from long hours at the office.

What then do these findings mean to us?

It means that parents need to make out time to be involved with their children on a regular daily basis, especially during the formative years. Children want someone who is available when they need to reach out and talk. Also, when you give your children physical gifts, you only provide short-term pleasure and excitement, but when you give them time, you give them self-worth and confidence, which serves a long-term purpose. Although, this may call for working fewer hours or giving up activities, but it is an investment that you will never regret.

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