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What Happened to Family Dinners? Why We Should Bring Them Back

What Happened to Family Dinners? Why We Should Bring Them Back

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 bond can have a far-reaching affect 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.[1]

In a Psycom piece about the issue, it concludes:[2]

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“Connection is key when it comes to parenting teens in a modern world. The single best thing you can do for your teen is 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?[3] 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 outright strange solution, but the scientific research backs up the claim.

A 2012 study from the Center On Addiction found that:[4]

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“Parental engagement in children’s lives is fundamental to keeping children away from tobacco, alcohol and other drugs, and that parents have the greatest influence on whether their teens will choose not to use substances.”

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.

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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:[5]

“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 turning your attention back to family meals is a great way to save some cash, as well as improve your relationships.

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Conversation and Meal Ideas

So, what to cook? You can serve up beans on toast for every meal, or you could focus on preparing some more extravagant meals.

While here are 15 Flavorful and Healthy Family Meals that are perfect for picky eaters, you can also consider these:

  • Green Kitchen – An ultra-healthy and excellent app. Pick from a wide range of tasty vegetarian meals that will provide you with a health boost, as well as help you enjoy healthy food.
  • Pinterest – Always a brilliant source for creative inspiration, this family meal specific board provides some immediate visual stimulus for what to cook next.
  • Fork It – Another clever app that will help you cook up a storm. It helps your creativity as a chef to flourish. It’s also designed to encourage people to cook more at home (if you’re lacking motivation to make it a consistent habit).
  • YouTube – As with Jamie Oliver above (who’s championed healthy eating amongst kids over the last decade), YouTube is a rich source of free ideas.

It’s also important to remember a family dinner isn’t a case of getting around a table and sitting there in stony silence. It’s an opportunity to connect, not endure awkward silences:

To set a talkative mood, you could have some background music, and you can discuss the day’s news, what you’ve all completed during the day, your plans for the weekend etc.

Drinking heavily in front of your kids to create free-flowing conversation isn’t a great choice, either. Your vices can easily pass on to your kids. If you’ve had a few glasses of wine and seem positively elated, it’s only natural your kids want to experience the same thing. So you could stick to non-alcoholic drinks and, of course, no smoking.

But above everything, enjoy the occasion! It’s about good fun and spending some time with the people you love.

Featured photo credit: Avatar of user rawpixel rawpixel @rawpixel rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Common Sense Media: The Common Sense Census: Media Use by Tweens and Teens
[2] PsyCom: Is Social Media Messing with Your Teen’s Mental Health?
[3] Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development: Who are the school truants?
[4] Center On Addiction: The Importance of Family Dinners Viii
[5] The Simple Dollar: Don’t Eat Out as Often

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Alex Morris

Creative Writer, Copywriter, & Journalist for Business, Culture, Lifestyle, & Work

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Last Updated on December 9, 2019

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

Everyone experiences mental stress at one time or another. Maybe you’re starting a new career, job, or business, or you feel incredibly overwhelmed between work, parenting, and your love life (or a lack of it). It could even be that you simply feel that you have way too much to do and not enough time to do it,  plus, on top of everything, nothing seems to be going the way it should!

Yup, we all experience mental stress from time-to-time, and that’s okay as long as you have the tools, techniques and knowledge that allow you to fully relieve it once it comes.

Here are 5 tips for relieving mental stress when it comes so you can function at your best while feeling good (and doing well) in work, love, or life:

1. Get Rationally Optimistic

Mental stress starts with your perception of your experiences. For instance, most people get stressed out when they perceive their reality as “being wrong” in some way. Essentially, they have a set idea of how things “should be” at any given moment, and when reality ends up being different (not even necessarily bad), they get stressed.

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This process is simply a result of perception and can be easily “fixed” by recognizing that although life might not always be going as YOU think it should, it’s still going as it should—for your own benefit.

In fact, once you fully recognize that everything in your life ultimately happens for your own growth, progress, and development—so you can achieve your goals and dreams—your perception works in your favor. You soon process and respond to your experience of life differently, for your advantage. That’s the essence of becoming “rationally optimistic.”

The result: no more mental stress.

2. Unplug

Just like you might need to unplug your computer when it starts acting all crazy, you should also “unplug” your mind.

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How on earth do you unplug your mind? Simple: just meditate.

It isn’t nearly difficult or complicated as some people think, so, if you don’t already meditate, give it a try. Whether you meditate for 5 minutes, 30 minutes, or 2 hours, this is a surefire way to reduce mental stress.

Meditation has been scientifically proven to relax your body (resulting in less mental stress), while also reducing anxiety and high blood pressure.

3. Easy on the Caffeine

Yes, we know, we know—everyone loves a nice java buzz, and that’s okay, but there’s a fine line between a small caffeine pick-me-up and a racing heart and mind that throws you into a frenzy of mental stress.

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Try giving up caffeine for a while and see how you feel. And, if that’s completely out of the question for you, at least try to minimize it. You might find that lots of your mental stress mysteriously “disappears” as your caffeine intake goes down.

4. Attack Mental Stress Via the Back Door

That’s right: your body and mind are part of the whole being, and are constantly influencing and affecting each other. If you’re experiencing a lot of mental stress, try to reduce it by calming your body down—a calm body equals a calmer mind.

How do you calm your body down and reduce physical stress? A  great way to reduce physical stress (thereby reducing mental stress) is to take natural supplements that are proven to reduce stress and anxiety while lifting your mood. Three good ones to look into are kava-kava, St John’s wort, and rhodiola rosea:

  • Kava-kava is a natural plant known to have mild sedative properties, and you should be able to find it at your natural health food store or vitamin store. It’s available in capsules or liquid extract form.
  • St John’s wort is a natural flower used to treat depression. Again, it’s found at your local health store in capsules or liquid. Because it uplifts mood (enabling you to see the brighter side of all experiences) it helps relieve mental stress as well.
  • Rhodiola rosea is a natural plant shown to reduce stress and uplift mood, and Russian athletes have been using it forever. Like the other two supplements mentioned, rhodiola rosea can be found at your natural health store in capsule or liquid form.

While these supplements are all natural and can be very helpful for most people, always check with your health care provider first as they can cause side-effects depending on your current health situation etc.

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5. Good Old-Fashioned Exercise

This tip has been around forever because it works. Nothing relieves mental stress like running, kickboxing—you name it. Anything super-physical will wipe out most of your mental stresses once the exercise endorphins (happy chemicals) are released into your brain.

The result: mental stress will be gone!

So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or just plain stressed, try using some of the above tips. You can even print this out or save it to refer to regularly.

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Featured photo credit: Radu Florin via unsplash.com

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