The importance of family mealtime

The importance of family mealtime

When was the last time your whole family sat together around a dining table to eat? Read on to find out why family mealtime is the key to family happiness.

family eating together

Did you know that children who regularly share mealtimes with their family have fewer behavioural problems?

Picture the daily morning routine of a typical family: The kids are fighting with each other over the bathroom, mum is preparing breakfast while hollering at the boys to “hurry up, or else,” daughter is freaking out over her crumpled uniform, and the baby is giving her share to the bedlam by banging her cereal bowl on her high chair. To try to help, dad has to rush to comfort the baby – and it’s going to be another day in the office with tell-tale egg yolk stains on his shirt. Then one by one, the family members grab their plates or bowls to eat. “Eating together,” in this sense, is like eating alone in a crowd.

If parents do not put in conscious effort at finding ways for the family to have a regular time together, there is a grave danger of everyone slowly becoming strangers living in one roof.

It’s not unusual for mum and dad to come home late because of overtime or meetings at the rotary club, etc. The kids, on the other hand, also have to stay longer in school for after-class drama rehearsals or band practice, or group study sessions. While these reasons seem “excusable” because they don’t happen every day (and they come with very valid reasons), they could still contribute to the family becoming, well…strangers living in one roof.

Why is this happening?

There are a multitude of reasons why this could be happening. Perhaps, things are just so hectic at school or work that everyone forgets that the home is not a school dorm where you just go to rest and prepare for another day outside.

Or perhaps everyone simply has lost track of their priorities. It is easy to get caught up in the rat race; and you would be surprised waking up one day realising that everyone drifted apart. And you ask yourself, “What happened?” The children’s grades are falling, they have gravitated to friends you don’t know (and worse, they could be on drugs, pre-marital sex, etc.) without you noticing.

Importance of mealtimes

One way of ensuring that there is constant flow of communication between all members of the family is to eat meals together. Sadly, family mealtime is a very important activity that is often neglected in today’s day and age.

We can’t begin to explain the importance of family meal time. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University reports that teens from families who almost never eat dinner together are more susceptible to use illegal drugs, smoke and drink.

Other studies cite healthier children, others report that children who share mealtime with the parents have fewer behavioural problems—in fact, a study conducted by the University of Michigan researchers showed that family mealtime is rated as more important in character-building than time spent studying or in church. Eating together brings back everyone to the true essence of what a family is: sharing, communicating, fun, and belonging—on a daily basis.

Make mealtime a family tradition

While breakfast could be “rush hour” and lunch together could be impossible, dinner time is the best time for all family members to catch up on each other on a daily basis. If you’re not already regularly eating together start doing it once a week for a while and then every other day, and then every day. Be flexible – some days it may not be possible for everyone to be there.

Also ensure that the TV is switched off. Eating and watching TV at the same time makes this whole family tradition redundant.

Dinner doesn’t have to be gourmet; it doesn’t have to be a special dish. Being a work-at-home dad, one of my greatest pleasures is to be able to occasionally cook for the whole family. I occasionally ruin a dish and I become the butt of jokes which makes everyone laugh while eating; and while I try so hard to feign offended or hurt, everyone teases me more.

Dinner-time should always be treated like a reunion, a respite from the outside world, a moment of strengthening relationships, and a pleasant experience that should always be cherished by our children long after they have a family and kids of their own. This also follows that there should be strictly no sermons, scolding or fighting.

If you have any insights, questions or comments regarding the topic, please share them in our Comment box below.

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