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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

More by this author

Alex Morris

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

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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