Family mealtimes are not just for rest and sustenance; research has shown that when families eat together, the members reap gains that go beyond better physical health.
Below are 4 research-backed reasons why eating together as a family can contribute to improved mental and emotional well-being:
1. Children tend to be happier.
Because eating together improves parent-child relationships, children feel more stable, secure, and are less inclined to engage in risky behavior like suicide and unsafe sex practices. They are also less likely to have mental illnesses like depression and anxiety. The same is true for adults — studies show that mothers who ate with their families often were also found to be happier and less stressed compared to mothers who did not.
2. It’s easier for parents to monitor and protect the kids from bullying.
Bullying and cyber-bullying have become ever present threats to school-going children. Although parents can do little to avoid bullying from ever occurring, conversing over meals can help them find out if their child is being bullied and help him respond to the situation.
3. Children do better academically.
Scientists have found that when parents converse with their children during mealtimes, the child will have a better vocabulary than children whose parents don’t have a sit down meal with them. Children also seem to score academically better on an average when they eat regularly with the parents – possibly since mealtimes are a great opportunity for parents to discuss projects, identify weak spots, and encourage strengths in the child’s academic progress
4. Better parent-child relationships.
Parents and children who eat regular family dinners seem to share a better relationship. They are more honest and open with each other, and the parents are more likely to know what is happening in the child’s life. Studies also show that children from families who eat together regularly felt that they could share their problem with their parents and turn to them for advice and support. On the other hand, teens from families that did not eat together regularly were more likely to feel isolated from their parents.
When eating together:
- Focus on enjoying each other’s company, not on what or how much each child is eating.
- Keep conversations positive. Encourage children to talk about their day. This helps to develop more communication between family members.
- Schedule difficult or disciplinary conversations for some time other than meals.
- Turn off distractions like the TV, computer, tablets and phones during mealtimes. Keep toys and books off the table.
Family mealtimes provide parents and children a great opportunity to socialize, relax, and improve their mental health. If conflicting schedules do not allow for everyone to be together in the evening, then schedule family meals at breakfast or lunch; just pick a time when everyone can be together in a relaxed setting, and do it regularly.
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