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

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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.

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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

More by this author

Alex Morris

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

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Last Updated on November 22, 2021

Thanksgiving: It’s About The Simple Things

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Thanksgiving: It’s About The Simple Things

Thanksgiving, a day of pure gluttony, football, and possible uncomfortable situations with family members that you may or may not like. Oh, yeah, and the whole “know and reflect on what it is to be thankful and grateful.”

During the holiday season many people forget what this time of year is bout and are too worried about getting the “early-bird” deals on Black Friday and making sure that they have the perfect gifts for their loved ones. I am sort of a “Grinch” when it comes to the holiday season, mostly because of that mentality by many of the poeple around me.

But instead of being grinch-like this holiday season, I decided to simplify things and get back to what this time of year is actually is about; being thankful for what I have and what I can give.

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Simplify

I’m not a “minimalist” in any real sense, but in the last few months the talks of Patrick Rhone and others have got me to rethink my stance. Can you really have too much stuff?

Absolutely.

And with all that stuff comes the burden and the weight of it on your back.

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If you feel that the things around you are out of control, maybe it’s time to simplify and be thankful and grateful for what you have and use. Here are a few things that you can do to simplify:

  • You know those gadgets in the drawer that you said you were going to sell? Well, time to get the listing on eBay and sell them. Or, send them to a place like Gazelle. Even if they are old and won’t get money, you can at least recycle them.
  • Get rid of things you don’t need. Like old books, clothes, tools, etc. Have something that’s been laying around forever with no use? Donate it to a charity or church. If you aren’t using it, someone else could be.
  • Find your productivity tools and stick with them. Use tools and gadgets that serve multiple purposes so you can simplify your tool set.

Be Mindful

You don’t have to be a master Buddhist or meditator to be mindful (although, it can definitely help). Being mindful comes down to being cognizant of the present and not keeping yourself in the past or future. It’s about living in the moment and being aware of yourself and everything around you. It’s just being.

Without getting too “California” on you, it is super important to be mindful during the holiday rush. Rather than worrying about the things that you forgot at your house on the way to relatives or thinking about the next stop in your endless holiday travels, just breath and think about what you are currently doing.

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Spend the time with your family and friends and don’t crush the moment. Try not to concentrate so hard on getting the perfect photo of the “awesome moment” of the day and actually miss the awesome moment.

Being mindful over the holidays will help you be with your families, friends, and yourself allowing you to enjoy your time.

Reflect

As the year is coming to a close (yes, it really is that close!) it’s a great time to start reflecting on what you have accomplished and what you haven’t. Within the next few weeks we will have a more throrough reflection article here at Lifehack.org, but reflecting every now and then over your holiday break is a great way to see where you have been doing well in your life and where you need to improve.

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Reflection shouldn’t be used to “get down” on yourself. Reflection should be used to take an honset inventory of what you have accomplished, how you handeled situations, and what you can do better. If you journal everyday (a daily form of reflection) it may be a good time to start going over some of the things that you have written and start to put together a year’s end journal entry. I mean, how else will you write your autobiography?

But, seriously, reflecting on yourself makes you aware of your successes and faults and helps you plan and make goals for the coming year. It makes you a better person.

So, while you are stuffing your face with bird, stuffing, and mashed taters’, remember that the holidays are much more than the superficial things. Use this holiday to become a better person.

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Featured photo credit: Libby Penner via unsplash.com

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