Between work, karate, swim practice, therapy, homework, late business meetings and other daily responsibilities shared mealtimes between family members is on the decline. Today, families are spending less time coming together for mealtimes and more time “on the go”. Coming together to share a meal with family seems to have lost its value over time with the impact becoming more and more evident in our children.
It is important to acknowledge that shared family meals benefit both the children and adults in the home. Meals are a time for socializing, sharing, laughing, encouragement, commiserating, establishing routine and sense of security, not to mention responsibility and good eating habits.
Socializing during meals without the interruption of phones or televisions is vital to building relationships between family members. Making a conscious effort to disconnect from outside distractions during mealtimes allows for meaningful connections and mealtime success.
It may be surprising to learn that research shows that sharing meals together can improve academic performance in children of all ages, improves overall healthy eating habits, and decreases the chances that your child will become involved with drugs or alcohol.
Families learn to work together and depend on one another as they plan the meal, prepare the foods, set/clear the table and assist one another with washing the dishes. Children learn responsibility when they are assigned a job that contributes to the preparation and/or serving of the meal. Additionally, they learn to listen, initiate conversations, speak politely, establish their own thoughts and feelings, problem solve, and become a contributing member of the family which brings them a sense of value and self-confidence. As families come together during the mealtime process, parents can instill values and provide encouragement to their children which builds strong character in their children.
Even the busiest of families can find time to come together to share a meal when the shared meal is set as a priority. Set small, realistic goals such as setting aside one or two nights each week. These shared family meals should become a routine, this may be done by scheduling it on the same day and at the same time each week. The family meal should be an event that is honored and respected by all family members.
The benefits that arise from simply being together and sharing about the day will not only feed each person physically but also feed social and emotional connections among families.