By Alex Morris | Lifehack
Do family dinners still exist? As a tradition, it’s certainly dying off. This is largely thanks to hectic modern lifestyles and an abundance of new technology. You’re far more likely to stuff a high fat, high-calorie takeaway into your system than sit down and catch up with your family over a carefully prepared dinner.
But today we’re championing the family dinner and why you should bring it back into your lives. There are some surprising reasons with room for an inspiring outcome.
Fighting for the Family Dinner Cause
It may seem like something not even worth considering, but sitting down to eat, talk, and the bond can have a far-reaching effect on your family.
I can look back and see when my typical, dysfunctional British family ditched eating together in favor of watching Frasier on VHS. That was around 2000 – it solved a few issues, but in the long-run did more damage than good.
Why? Well, strangely enough, there are science-backed reasons for taking up family dinners. And many of these benefits are particularly important for your kids.
At a young age, they’re impressionable and in a habit-forming phase. And modern technology isn’t helping – many young people struggle with anxiety and depression due to the likes of social media. And they’re addicted to their devices – in 2015, a Common Sense Media census found they spend at least a third of their day glued to their smartphone.
In a Psycom piece about the issue, it concludes:
“Connection is key when it comes to parenting teens in the modern world. The single best thing you can do for your teen is to make time for face-to-face connections and simply be present.”
Additionally, from 2014 there was another revealing study from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). In Who are the school truants? it found youths who didn’t eat (i.e. bond) regularly with their parents were:
- Far more likely to miss school.
- More likely to suffer from obesity.
- And suffer from alienation to a greater extent.
Benefits of Family Dinners
Okay, so I feel I’ve made a convincing argument in the name of family dinners. But it’s worth taking a closer look at some of the key benefits of eating together.
1. Improve development
Simply put, if you have young ones around, then sitting around at a meal having a discussion helps them to develop. They can improve their language skills, social interaction, and etiquette (i.e. not chewing with their mouth open – as a misophonia sufferer, that’s an all-important one!).
They’ll improve their manners, patience, and even cultural knowledge. For instance, sure you can use a traditional knife and fork. But you can also try out other dishes and get them skilled up with chopsticks. There’s a skill they can show off to their friends.
2. Better mental health
As mentioned above, with mental health issues growing amongst young people, one way to alleviate this is with family dinners. It may sound like an ineffective, if not an outright strange solution, but the scientific research backs up the claim.
A 2012 study from the Center On Addiction found that:
So along with various other family bonding exercises, a family meal is an excellent way to engage with your children and help them develop.
3. Better physical health
The more control you have over your child’s diet, the better food they’ll eat. If you leave your kids to their own devices, the chances are they’ll head off and gorge on fast food, takeaways, unhealthy snacks, and fizzy drinks.
If you eat at home, you can make better food choices. You have total control over what’s going into your meals – even at restaurants, a healthy option may continue unexpectedly high amounts of sugar or salt.
But not only does it allow you to add more vegetables to your meals (the cornerstone of any healthy diet!), it also enables you to talk to your kids about eating healthily.
This is particularly important in an age where it’s bizarrely easy to consume a vast amount of unhealthy produce for little cost. Eating healthily takes a little more effort, but the dinner table is a great place to make this clear to your young ones.
4. Grow your family bond
This is an obvious one. But the more time you spend together, the more you’ll grow your family bond.
Don’t restrict this to family meals, of course. We recently ran the following piece that can add to a busy schedule of activities: 25 Super Fun Things to Do With Family to Strengthen Your Bond.
5. Cut costs
If you’ve fallen into a habit of hiring a takeaway more or less every day of the week, then you’re losing a lot of money.
Family dinners are often much more cost-effective. The Simple Dollar found:
“The average American spends $232 per month eating meals prepared outside the home.”
From its research, it then found:
“The average American would save $36.75 per person per week by moving all of their meals from restaurants to home-prepared meals.”
Of course, eating out is also a great way to bond with the family. But when it’s costing a lot of money, then turn your attention back to family meals is a great way to save some cash, as well as improve your relationships.