We get it, life gets busy and it’s difficult to make the whole families’ schedules align, sometimes making it easier to just grab food on the run and skip sitting down to eat together. Other times, when we do sit down to eat together our mobile devices or TV distracts us and we don’t concentrate on one another. While skipping family dinner may only happen occasionally, here is why it is important to make time for it.
The advent of social media and the prevalence of mobile devices make it more difficult than ever to be a kid. Growing from childhood, to adolescence, to adulthood, while trying to navigate the challenges of the real world as well as answering the demands of a virtual world leaves children without guidance in the face of problems their parents never had to face. Kids today live on the Internet as much as with their families, decreasing the sphere of influence that parents have with their children. The best way to start to reverse this trend is by sharing meal times together, specifically dinners.
Over 20 years of research across North America, Europe and Australia, shows that gathering for a family meal is beneficial for brain and body development, as well as emotional development and overall well-being. One such study conducted by Catherine Snow and Diane Beals found that for young children, dinnertime conversation boosts vocabulary even more than being read to. Children who eat regular family dinners also consume more fruits, vegetables, vitamins and nutrients, and are less likely to be obese.
It is not only the act of gathering all family members, but the atmosphere as well. Parents need to create a warm and engaging environment to encourage healthy eating in their children. There are a host of recent studies whose findings show that regular family dinners are even a powerful deterrent against high-risk behaviors, as well as an association with positive moods and lower anxiety in adolescents and teenagers.
Make family dinner a priority because it can be the most reliable way for families to catch up and spend time with one another. It is a great way for working parents to de-stress from a long day, and to enjoy time with the family. So the next time you sit down for family dinner, put aside the phones until after the meal and let everyone know you are really present and ready to spend quality time with one another.