November 1, 2010

Eating Together as a Family

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I was recently involved in a discussion with a few other bloggers about eating together as a family. The general consensus was that family meals are important. However, even though important they don’t always happen because we’re all very busy.

Growing up we always ate together at the table. Even though my mom often worked two jobs my brother and I always ate dinner together with our mom or our grandparents. It was probably one of the things that kept us out of trouble and away from bad influences. Had we been left to just eat with each other, I’m sure my brother and I would have rarely had dinner together. We were very typical siblings and often didn’t want anything to do with each other.

When high school rolled around we were busy with all kinds of activities. I was in ROTC and did quiz bowl as well as a few other clubs. But there was always the understanding that I’d be home for dinner. My mom cooked dinner every night. It was usually very basic but she always had dinner made. Sometimes we’d go to my grandparents for dinner, but eating out was a very rare occasion.

Now that I’m a mom, I want to make sure BabyGirl knows how important being a family is. And it’s even more important to me since CycleGuy lives in the Bay Area part time.

But this discussion isn’t new. Time Magazine ran an article back in 2006 praising the importance of family meals. In 2005 the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University completed a study which basically concluded that the benefits are numerous and the drawbacks minimal.

So why is it important to eat as a family? Besides the obvious of being together and having conversation, there are many reasons why family meals are constantly discussed, researched and written about.

1. Numerous studies show that teens who eat with their families are less likely to smoke or do drugs

2. Young kids are more likely to try different foods when eating with their parents and seeing them enjoy their food.

3. Kids feel connected to their families and are less likely to engage in risky behaviors. It’s a time to connect with each other.

4. Some studies suggest that eating together helps kids develop better and larger vocabularies.

Children will model their parents behavior. If trying new foods is something you’d like for your child then doing it together will likely lead to a more successful experience. Same with eating more veggies and fruits. If you eat as a family, you demonstrate to your kids that eating healthfully is important. It’s an opportunity to talk about tastes and preferences and like and dislikes.

And eating together as a family doesn’t have to be at a table in the kitchen. Each family sets what is normal for them. If you’re driving your kids here and there and that means eating in the car or stopping for a meal out then taking that time to connect is critical.

Everyone has to eat to survive. The key is to eat as a family and make your kids and each other a priority even if it’s just for a short time. It’s not about fancy food or linen napkins. It’s about being connected and thankful for each other and the joy of being a family. Kids grow up and we hope they will be prepared for the world on their own. In this world of 140-character messages on Twitter and text messages with it’s own language, sitting down together still has a place in ensuring that future generations are prepared to take on the world.

We sit down together every night, whether at home or out. And, yes, that’s my kitchen table in the picture. CycleGuy and I get the yellow chairs and BabyGirl gets the blue. Aunt ZoniDuck gets the green one when she is over, but when she’s not that’s where Pinky (from Build-a-Bear) and My Melody (Build-a-Bear Hello Kitty Friends) sit with us to have dinner. BabyGirl sets the table, too. I had to do it, so she does too.

We don’t always have a lot to talk about since we homeschool and we’re together a lot. I do try to find something to talk about, even if it’s just a made up story about her animals. But I know that eating together is important to BabyGirl because the other day a friend called at dinner time and really needed to talk and I excused myself from the table. When I rejoined BabyGirl she told me she was sad to eat by herself and that she likes eating as a family. Even at 7 years old family meals are important to her.

Normally, I don’t answer the phone when we are having dinner. My grandparents didn’t when I was growing up and it told me that our time together was important. Now I know that my own BabyGirl feels the same and I will continue to ensure her that we are important. Family is important.

Do you eat together as a family? Are family meals a part of your daily routine?

Disclosure: The discussion about family meals was started on Collective Bias as part of a promotion with Marie Callender’s new products as well as the start of a Family Meals society on Whrrl.
Sara

{ 3 comments }

V Demetros November 1, 2010 at 3:07 pm

Even though we don’t get to eat together as a family as often as I like (Daughter has a night class at the community college) we make sure we eat together a few nights a week so he father can catch up on what she’s doing. Once again, homeschooling means we eat a lot of meals together, but I believe that all the statistics don’t lie. And it’s also a great time for parents to connect with kids over a common joy-food! Thanks for the reminder.

Kate @ Songs Kate Sang November 1, 2010 at 5:53 pm

Sara, This is so wonderful. Thank you for the great reminder!

Becca - Our Crazy Boys November 5, 2010 at 8:04 pm

Always. Every morning, we eat breakfast together at the table (or the island), and every evening we eat at the table together. I love that it has never been questioned, and feel that it is SO important 🙂

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