In contemporary western society, the decline of the family meal has become a concern. The rhythm of life today is so erratic that it often leaves little time to cultivate meaningful relationships with our loved ones. We are so caught up in the 9 to 5 routine and the need to have more than one job to make ends meet that it often passes by without been thought on. A family meal shouldn’t be about dressing up for dinner or to have Dad imparting all of his wisdom during that time.
Importance of family meals
Family meals are important in more ways than we imagine. When families eat together the less likely the kids are to engage in risky health behaviors like smoking, drinking, or doing drugs, and the more likely they are to eat their veggies, delay having sex, etc. It is also remarkable that kids whose families have consistent meals together also have better academic performance and are less prone to suffer from mental disorders such as depressions, eating disorders. Furthermore, the more often a family eats together, the more the children view the parents in a positive position and have better communication between them.
Now, the trick here is that a family meal is not about eating altogether in the same place. It should be eaten at an actual table—facing each other with no distractions and interacting with each other. That means no TV or phones. So even if you eat ‘family meals’ five times at home with your kids if TV is on during dinner or you are constantly checking your phone, social media accounts and such quality interaction and healthy food goes down the drain.
Rules of healthy meals
- Eat together as a family often.
- Sit around a table to have visual contact of each other.
- No TV while at the table.
- No Android or iOS devises either.
- Make sure to interact with each member of the family.
One of the recent trends is that in many families someone else other than the parents are consistently being the ones to provide their child with food. For example, a child care provider, school cafeteria worker, grandmothers. So that means that a high percentage of children under preschool age don’t have breakfast with their parents and even though in the cases of dinner many parents try to eat at home most of the time the trend is shifting to have meals away from home which probably means big portions and less healthy food.
So, it is very important not only eat together as a family bust is also important to pay attention to where our children are eating their meals and what they are eating.
Research suggest that full time working parents are eating less often with their families and also are less likely to encourage their children to eat healthily, reporting lower fruit and vegetable intake. They normally spend less time on food preparation than part-time and not-employed parents. Their expenditure on food is much greater.
Additionally, parents with more stressful jobs or jobs with long or nonstandard hours are more likely to report frequent consumption of sugar-sweetened beverage and fast food, to report missing family meals or skip them altogether, eating take-out or restaurant meals and eating while working.
How to adapt to the demands of modern times.
The research benefits mentioned at the beginning belong to a study that featured families who ate 4 to 5 times a week together. This means any meal not only dinner time. The goal is to find 4 or 5 times a week to sit together as a family for some eating occasion. The benefits obtained from this are too important and they can help prevent so many negative damaging health problems both physical and mental. It is worth the effort.
Current jobs are definitely more diverse than a century ago. The working hours are different. Sometimes we work on an international schedule because work now is done globally. We can be in China managing a project of online business in London. The economy has changed and so has the job market. So, the way to adapt is planning and making sure that in that process of planning we include and give the importance it requires to family time.
Families are the core of any society that is why so much emphasis is placed on family values and family life. They are as universal and as particular as any culture and identity of every nation.