Has Eating Together as a Family Become a Past-Time?
It’s hard for many of us to fit in meal times together as a family nowadays. Each family member has their own commitments, from later working hours to clubs and social events and maybe it seems easier to feed the littlest members of the family early to grab some much needed adult time after the bedtime routine. All too often it’s just easier to eat separately. Taking back that time as a family though can be vital to the health of the family as a social unit and the social development of the children, as well as easing the family budget.
Children need to know how families work and that includes how food gets from the shops -and maybe the garden if you grow vegetables – via the cooker to the table. Involving children in these processes and maybe giving them a few jobs of their own teaches them how to do these tasks when they’re out on their own, as well as how to work together as a family and they’re more likely to eat a meal they feel some ownership for.
Family meals are prime bonding time. Preparing the meal together is part of this. Once you’re at the table the family has the time for sharing news without distractions, learning about one another’s day, likes and dislikes, worries and joys. These are invaluable moments for teaching communications skills. Not only in speaking in turn but in listening and empathizing with siblings and parents. The younger members of the family are also learning other vital life skills. Table manners are an obvious one, but picking up on social cues, learning new words and the art of light conversation are skills that will last a lifetime.
Socialization doesn’t stop after early childhood. Recent research shows that eating together can even be a positive influence on children and teens at school! Teens who eat with their families at least 4 times a week perform better academically than those who do not. Those teenagers sharing meals with their families are also significantly less likely to take part in self destructive and antisocial behaviors such as drinking, smoking and experimenting with illegal drug use.
Benefits for the Whole Family
Home cooked meals are on average two to four times cheaper than those purchased out and about. Cooking at home several times a week can make a huge difference to the family budget! As well, home cooked meals tend to be lower in fat and salt and higher in nutrients, including protein, vitamins, minerals and fibre and they taste better too! you know exactly what’s gone into a meal you’ve cooked yourself and you have more control over how it’s prepared and cooked. Want to watch your waist? Bake instead of frying and you can still enjoy your favourite bacon sandwich (in moderation)!
Children and teens who are involved in planning and cooking the meals they eat are more likely to be adventurous eaters, trying new foods as part of the adventure of cooking with their parents. Do remember it takes 8-10 tries to familiarize a child with a new food so don’t give up when they won’t try your lovely new recipe first time! Many a positive memory of ‘Mom’s meat loaf’ or ‘Dad’s homemade burgers’ will stay with kids, encouraging them to take these meals with them to their own families and perpetuating the cycle of healthier eating and togetherness.