Posted on March 5, 2019 by Enrique Mata
As Spring weather approaches I look forward to finding some time to grill outdoors with my family and take advantage of some beautiful El Paso evenings. With my two daughters busy with school work and out of school activities, we must work hard to set aside at least one evening a week to gather at the family table. Studies show that there are multitude of benefits that come from eating together as a family. My own two decades of parental experience also reinforce that the mental health and emotional well-being benefits are too great to ignore.
Disconnecting from technology and the pressures of daily life to settle down to a quiet, distraction free environment takes prioritizing and practice. Nowadays, many of us – especially our children – can hardly look up from our smartphones, tablets, laptops, or game consoles. Yet findings from over 20 years of research done by groups such as Harvard’s Family Dinner Project, The Center on Addiction’s Family Day Project, Emory University, and others, show that sharing a meal with family is good for the spirit and health of all family members. In fact, children who participate in regular family meals are more likely to:
- have higher self-esteem and a more positive outlook on life;
- have lower rates of substance misuse and teen pregnancy;
- have fewer behavioral problems in school;
- show higher resilience in the face of adversity; and
- have better grades, higher reading scores and better vocabulary.
Even if your family hasn’t sat down for a family meal in some time, it’s never too late to start. It doesn’t matter if you gather for breakfast or dinner, just make the times that you sit down to a meal together count. Strive toward conversations that allow everyone to participate. Let good feelings and laughter flow free as you enjoy good food. You might be surprised by the topics that develop. Some may even require follow-up conversations after mealtime is done. As parents, we must always be prepared with a sympathetic ear and emphasize that there is no subject that you are unwilling to discuss.
Working together over the years, our family table routines have become a welcome part of our lives. We look forward to the nights when we can come together to learn more about each other. We even find ways to use technology to help enhance our conversations like asking “hey Google” to clarify or confirm some of our discussion topics.
Your family table may not look like the one you sat at when you were growing up. It probably doesn’t look at all like your neighbor’s meal time either and that’s perfectly fine. Find ways to work together on preparation and cleanup to keep the conversation’s going. Make the family table experience a high-quality tradition that is handed down to future generations. The whole family’s emotional well-being will be better for it.
To learn more about the importance of family meal time visit the following links:
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