The family that eats together…

often do you sit down to a meal with your family? When was the last time? Yes we lead busy lives and have commitments that may make it difficult for the whole family to come together each day, but real efforts should be made to ensure a family makes time to eat together as often as possible. This doesn’t mean rushing through a meal before one sibling goes out to meet friends, another is texting on their phone, mom is multi-tasking between bites and Dad is preoccupied with the day’s stresses. It means sitting down, interacting, enjoying a meal and healthy conversation.
Never underestimate the power of an hour out of the day to connect with the whole family. It is the perfect time to find out how each other’s day went. The perfect time to observe how each other is feeling. The perfect time to discuss current affairs, worries, celebrations or a family issue. It is invaluable in the maintenance of the family unit and continually develops relations and keeps lines of communications open. It provides a feeling of togetherness that bonds the family together.
One of the most significant factors of the problems facing young people today is the breakdown of the family. The lack of guidance and interactions that the family used to provide has become so lost over the past few decades and the effects are far reaching within our society. Research shows that frequent family dinners are associated with lower rates of smoking, drinking and illegal drug use in pre-teens and teenagers compared to those young people who do not have the regular experience of family meals. The opportunity for parents and siblings to model good behaviour and shape attitudes, teach morals and reinforce expectations can be provided when a family spends regular mealtime together.
Everybody has to eat, even the moody teenager who may usually take their food into their room, the busy mom who grabs a bite to eat during her hectic day or the busy dad rushing from place to place. Do not let it become a practice. Make it part of your family’s routine to spend that precious time together around the dining table. Be sure not to make it a time for reprimand or arguments, make it a positive space where there is an opportunity to speak, ask for advice, share news, discuss concerns. These are the times good memories are made and they are practices young people can take on and use in their own family settings and teach their own children.
The whole experience should be made into a ‘family affair’. Preparing the table for the family can give young and older children some responsibility and teach them the correct way to set a table. Getting them involved with planning the menu and even better still, allowing them to be involved in the preparation and cooking where possible, teaches them not only practical life skills but also provides opportunities to work as a team and gives the younger members of the family a sense of ownership of the meal. It is also a time to model table manners and encourage appropriate eating habits.
The benefits for each individual and the family as a unit are inestimable. The isolated feelings and self esteem issues that are so prevalent in today’s youths can be diminished by this simple practice. Giving young people that real sense of belonging they can look forward to each day even for a short time can affect them in such a positive way and impact on their relations with others. Parents have more opportunities to observe how their children are feeling and what is happening in their lives on a regular basis and will know if any changes are evident quickly. Spouses can enjoy the together time too amidst the busy schedules most of our lives have become.
So many of the good aspects of family life have been lost and so many more are disappearing. If you already practice this please continue to do so and be aware how important it is. If you do not, make an effort to start, even if it is once a week to begin with- maybe you will discover its benefits and try harder to increase the opportunity to bring such an important practice into your home. The more often you sit down together the more likely you are to bond and love the way a family a should.