Why Families Should Have Meals Together

by Sumdima Rai
When was the last time you and your family sat down for a meal together? Research suggests that children who eat with their families are healthier and fare better in their lives as compared to those who don’t.
If you’re one of those parents who prefers retreating to your own room to have your dinner in front of the computer while your kids eat on the couch watching TV, we suggest you read this.

Why Families Should Eat Together

1. Contributes Towards Your Child’s Physical & Mental Well-Being
Research has shown that sharing family meals leads to reduced rates of substance abuse, eating disorder and depression in teenagers. Teens who eat with their families at least five times a week are most likely to get As and Bs in school than their peers who don’t. They’re 42 percent less likely to drink alcohol, 59 percent less likely to smoke cigarettes and 66 percent less likely to try marijuana. Studies have also found that adolescents who sit with their families during mealtimes have high self-esteem, are helpful in nature, exhibit better vocabulary and academic performance and report lower pregnancy rates than their counterparts who eat alone. The rate of obesity among such kids is low, too.

2. Helps You Bond With Your Family
A study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family says, “The effects of family dinners on children depend on the extent to which parents use the time to engage with their children and learn about their day-to-day lives.” Families that focus on positive and healthy discussions during mealtime help nurture a fulfilling and loving relationship with their children. As Dr Anne Fishel, PhD and author of Home for Dinner: Mixing Food, Fun, And Conversation For A Happier Family And Healthier Kids, points out: “Food will bring family to the table, but it’s the conversation and stories that keep us there.”

3. Provides An Opportunity To Share Experiences & Cooking Traditions
Talking about an old uncle who traveled across the world or a pet dog you had in your childhood or recalling fond memories of a fun family trip you went to with your cousins, make for great dinner time stories and also inculcate a sense of pride and belonging in the children. It helps your children get a better perspective about their roots and their family lineage which lends a great boost to their self-esteem and overall personality development.

Prepping for meals serves as a good time to discuss and pass on healthy and nutritious cooking traditions and family recipes.

How you can make family meals more interesting

Take help from The Family Dinner Project (FDP)—a resource aimed at helping families “improve the frequency and quality of their mealtime interactions.”  Their site is packed with fun-filled ideas on mealtime conversation ideas, games and activities suitable for kids of all ages.

Ask your kids to name and describe the food they’re having. Play a game of I Spy. You can even assign them the job of setting up the dinner table. That is one way of making the kids feel they are important.
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