Children are the future. You want the best for them. Family meals are instrumental in spending quality time with your children and helping them avoid some of the dangers that come with growing up.
Why family meals are important for the growth and safety of children
Parents and kids have created shortcuts that pass for quality time. Most of us don’t even know that that’s what we are doing. Sitting in the same room watching a movie or saying ‘hello’ and ‘good night’ is not the same as holding a meaningful conversation.
Here are a few statistics that might shock you to learn. According to A.C. Nielsen, parents and children spend an average of 38 minutes per week talking to each other. That is less than six minutes each day finding out what is going on in their lives. They spend more time than that with their friends.
Kids who spend meal time sitting down with their families have a lower risk of starting such behaviors as smoking, drinking and drugs according to the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine (2004). These are three of the major concerns that parents have with their kids. The teen years are a time when depression is common as kids seek to “find” themselves. Those depressive episodes are less likely to occur in children who have meals with their family.
Also, kids (and parents) eat slower when they have meals with their families. This cuts down on overeating which is what we do when we are eating in a hurry between activities. Overeating is contributing to a greater incidence of childhood obesity.
Between school and work, very few families take the time to relax. Less often than that, they take the time to relax together. Home is a sanctuary and a place of safety. At the dinner table, you and your kids can let your guard down and listen uninterrupted to each other. For younger children, listening to conversations at the dinner table helps them to learn language and communication skills (Harvard Research, 1996).
Most of the happier moments in our lives center on food and family. That can still be true when you make time for meals. There are no set times for dinner. If your family can only get together at seven o’clock, have dinner then.
Just like working and school are priorities in your life, consider treating meal time the same way. Use that opportunity to discuss what happened during the day and also to give advice to your children concerning tough situations they are facing. In such a calm setting, they are more likely to open up and hear what you have to say.