Do you remember those days of yesteryear when we all sat down for family meals lovingly prepared by your Mother or Grandmother? I sure do and I miss it! It seems this is an American tradition that is quickly going by the wayside. Too many kids today eat fast food meals that are bought by a parent on the way home from work. Meals are eaten in front of the television or in their rooms while surfing the web, and not together with the family.
I’m all for conveniences in this modern day rush, but let’s discuss some of the pros of returning to a home cooked meal with the family seated around the table. Let’s look at some statistics: A.C. Nielson polls show that the average parent spends 38.5 minutes per week in meaningful conversation with their children. Thirty eight minutes a WEEK? That’s about the average time spent at the table for ONE meal. Kids need that daily contact with parents to help make wise decisions and feel supported. A Harvard research project in 1996 shows that family mealtime is more important in young children’s vocabulary development than any other single activity. The Archive of Pediatric Medicine has found that children 11 to 18 that eat regularly with their families have a lower chance of doing drugs, smoking, are less depressed and have fewer suicidal thoughts. Wow! If that isn’t a red flag!
Children need regular positive feedback and guidance from their parents or guardians, and what better place than around the table sharing their day, their successes and failures, and their feelings. Here are some hints on getting back to the family meal time. If your family seldom eats together ease into it by scheduling 2 to 3 lunches or dinners a week together, then increase the number of meals as you can. Turn off televisions, phones, radios and just talk. You might start by having everyone share one positive thing that happened that day. Make the dinner table a neutral zone. Negativity, arguments, and fault-finding are not allowed during mealtime. Kids need to know this is a safe zone to bring up problems they are having and that they have a positive way to help them deal with issues such as bullies, grades, sibling squabbles, dating and other stresses.
It is evident every time you watch the news or read the paper that our young people are dealing with problems not faced by older generations. Too many of our youth drift though their developmental years without a strong family anchor to help them make wise decisions and grow to their full potential. You may not think so, but children do listen to us old folks and it sticks, but we have to take the time to talk to our kids and not just fuss at them. Remember that family meals together are not just for special occasions, go set the table, and call everyone to dinner. Look for my article next week on how that family dinner can save you money and make you healthier. For more information call me at the UGA-Dougherty County Extension office at 229-436-7216.
Suzanne Williams is the FACS agent at Dougherty County Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at (229) 436-7216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.