Children who eat at least one meal a day with their family develop more nutritious eating habits and do better at school.
The Family Being Together
Just because we eat together does not necessarily mean we are really together. Children bicker, fidget and daydream. Mothers fuss over what the children eat and what they do not. Fathers are often more involved with the TV or are still mentally in the office.
Often, moments of genuine togetherness come at the oddest times- a secret is whispered in the middle of homework or after the children are tucked into bed.
Yet, there is something about the routine of sharing a meal together. It holds the family together even on nights when everyone has someplace else they'd rather be. And those times when everything falls into place, you get a glimpse of why social scientists call communication a kind of vaccine, protecting kids from harm.
Families That Eat Together...
It's not for nothing that the idiom advises us to eat together.
Mealtime encourages talk and gives a contact point into each others lives. It improves a child's vocabulary and communication skills. This leads to better in school and fewer behavioural problems.
Mealtime also helps to instill a sense of belonging in children, and the routine provides a sense of security, of comfort.
Making it Work
Most parents don't need to be convinced that family meals are a good idea - they just need the extra time it takes to plan, prepare, and share them. Even if you find the time, how can you achieve the ideal family meal where everyone catches up and nobody argues?
- Plan it: first figure out how often you sit together. Understand what are the obstacles (are conflicting time zones the problem? Do the children eat too early or the parents eat too late?). Then see what can be done (a Sunday lunch together?). Choose the best days of the week taking everyones' schedules into account.
- Prepare it: involving the children may be extra work but it may be worth it. They can get the table ready, or when older, consider assigning them a night to be helper.
- Enjoy it: don't think about doing the dishes, try to focus on being together. Mealtimes is a good time to teach civilized behaviour, so try to teach the rules about staying seated, not talking with your mouth full. Keep the interactions positive and give everyone a chance to talk. Teens may turn up their noses at the prospect of a family meal - not surprising because they're trying to establish independence. Yet studies find that teens still want their parents' counsel, so use mealtime as a chance to reconnect.
Believe in It
With both parents working and the kids between their various social and extra curricular activities, finding a time for everyone to sit around the same table, eating the same food and listening to one another, becomes more and more infrequent. Unless you really make the effort to eat together.
- If a family dinner is missed, try to make another time together. A weekend lunch can also help you connect.
- Most families have conflicting schedules occasionally. Don't feel guilty.
- Try to establish the ritual of eating together when the children are young. They are less likely to resist as they grow.
- Don't have a set agenda. Instead, keep conversation loose. Topics could include personal news of the day, current events, school assignments, friends, or family plans.
- It's OK for parents to talk with each other. But talk about things the children can add to the conversation. Give everyone a chance to talk, ask questions, and listen to one another.
- Turn the TV off, and don't answer the phone. They distract from the main purpose of sitting down together - to connect with and support one another, and engage in quality conversation.
It is very
important to eat together for proper growth and development of your child and
encouraging him or her to eat healthy. Therefore, follow the above tips to the
‘T’ and make use of the opportunity to help your child to enjoy the benefits of