Eating Together = Family Health & Happiness?
Photo Credit: Dan Gold
There’s no doubting that it’s often a challenge to get the family sat down to a meal together. Parents working longer hours, kids with more schoolwork and busier social lives than ever, and let’s not even mention the less-than-enthusiastic reactions – or the fact you’re probably trying to get them eating nutritionally! So is it worth persevering with the family meal?
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For behaviour analyst Judi James, from Nutrition and Fitness the answer is a resounding yes! The results can impact family harmony, health and happiness.
“Eating together as a family is an important psychological ritual that echoes the hunt/kill/eat rituals of our ancestors,” she explains. “Although food is now in constant supply, it’s useful to maintain a ritual that was created when it was rare, as the feeling of celebration and team-work can have a therapeutic and bonding effect on the family unit.”
Image Credit: Jennifer Schmidt
Beyond the lovely healthy family meal you put on the table, Judi spells out the social and psychological benefits:
- Spread the chores – Eating and preparing food is valued even by children! Getting them involved in meals is an easy way to encourage kids to see the results of their efforts and grow their sense of responsibility in the home
- Go team family! – The social experience and interaction reinforces the sense of your family as a team. It’s one of the best bonding rituals, reduces stress and tension both in and outside the home. It makes everyone feel safer and reminds us of the underlying affections and structure lying beneath any friction
- Family face time – It’s an opportunity to read one another’s faces and feelings, often for the only time during the day. This is really healthy and the undivided attention increases family understanding
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Image Credit: Cel Lisboa
Plus there are wider benefits:
- Watch your manners – Family meals are a great chance for children to develop social skills necessary for outside the home too. “Sitting down to eat gives parents a chance to provide and enforce some basic etiquette guidelines,” explains Judi. “Although social manners seem dated, it’s still vital that children learn how to eat and behave at table in a way that will teach them how to respect other cultural and social behaviours outside the home.”
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- Family purse – Beyond bonding, it will reduce the amount you’re spending on snacks and ready meals, by focussing on family dinners you can save grocery cash for a treat for everyone
- Improve school grades –According to a report by the Department for Children, Schools and Families, “There is a strong relationship between regularity of having a family evening meal and GCSE attainment.”
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- Improve the family health – Kids not sitting down to eat a balanced family meal are more likely to grab unhealthy fast foods and snacks, which some cite as a factor in rising childhood obesity,
So, with a tough year looming for many families, could now be a good time to reintroduce your family to preparing and eating meals together when you can?
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About eParenting: eParenting was started by Jacqui O'Brien in 2004. At the time her kids were 1 and 4 and kept her nice and busy. Now they are teenagers and still keeping her pretty busy!