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Importance of Family Mealtimes

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Importance of Family Mealtimes

Susie Thompson, Guest Writer

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DISCLAIMER: Susie Thompson is a guest writer and is publishing her article for FCCLA. She will take the research she has done and present it to a panel of judges at the regional, state, and hopefully national levels to advocate for the importance of family mealtimes among her peers in Forsyth County.

Although family mealtimes may be a cause of stress in many busy households, the benefits of sitting down together with healthy food and intentional conversation outweigh the cons. With the extensive research that has connected family mealtime to brain development, a sense of unity, communication, confidence, and benefits for both mind and body, it seems as though its importance is not stressed enough. In fact, some developmental boosts associated with this topic include the promotion of language skills as conversation is held by each member of the family and the development of social skills as children and teenagers learn to share and take turns (fatherly.com).

A sense of unity is cultivated at the table. Productive conversation, even “Pass the salt,” opens a window for team building and creating ties that would benefit their family dynamic for years to come. A study in Minnesota was done to examine the behavioral patterns in children and teens with regular family mealtimes as opposed to children who do not eat with their family often. As they surveyed over 5,000 teens, “researchers concluded that regular family dinners were associated with lower rates of depression and suicidal thoughts” (fatherly.com). In addition to more confidence, children who eat dinners around the table are “twice as likely to eat their five servings of fruits and vegetables as families who do not eat together” (fcconline.org). This leads to lower obesity rates and individuals who are more confident in their own skin as a result.

Not only does family time positively influence confidence, it has been tied to lack of behavioral issues. The Family and Children’s Center Organization states that on average, “kids who eat family meals have a lower chance of engaging in high-risk behaviors such as substance abuse and violence” (fcconline.org). In fact, mealtime has been proven to positively influence behaviors as well and a recent New Zealand study claimed that regular mealtimes with positive conversation contribute to positive attitudes in children as a whole, more so than regularly attending church or success in school (Journal of Pediatrics and Child Health). In the same study, students that were surveyed were asked if they had seriously thought of committing suicide in the past 12 months and 86% of teens answered “Not at all.” The same question was asked again but instead about suicidal action and again, 95% of teens answered “Not in the past 12 months/ Not at all.”

The importance of this issue is vast as the very mental and physical wellbeing of an adolescent may be dependent upon whether or not their family participates in intentional conversation around a table. Be present and participate during dinners, no matter how few and far between they may be. Make an effort to converse with family members; ask about their day, school, work, etc. Allow for uplifting speak, as this may be the very thing that brightens your day.

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