By Margarita Nahapetyan
One out of many important things for the whole family to do is to have dinner together. Researchers began reporting the benefits of family dinner about a decade ago, focusing mainly on how it affects children. Studies show that those families who eat dinner at least 3 or 4 times a week together, benefit in many ways.
First of all, eating together helps families achieve open communication and build stronger and healthier relationships. Children have better grades at school and are better adjusted as teens and adults, and the entire family enjoys healthier nutrition. For many families, eating dinner together proves to be good and effective way to reduce the risk of youth rates of addiction, lessen depression, and helps to raise healthier children. It is also a great time to share the events of the day, discuss news and ideas and just be together and enjoy each other's company.
During dinner time parents have better opportunity to show their children that they are the priority. Sitting at the same table and sharing meals is where and when parents can find out more about their children's tastes, what they like, what dislike, and their everyday life in general. When parents have all this information they can better direct their kids toward positive things in life, such as activities and behavior. They also have better chance to reduce the likelihood that children will get involved with alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs.
One of the studies of family eating patterns was conducted last year by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University. For this study the researchers have been gathering the data for almost 10 years. They found that family dinner eventually gets better with practice: the less often family members gather and eat together, the worse the experience is likely to be, the worse is a quality of food - meaningless the conversation would be.
Among families who were found to eat together three times or less per week, 45 per cent admitted that TV was usually on during meals, and about one-third said there is not much to talk about. Kids in these families said they are much less likely to think their parents are proud of them.
Researchers also found that compared with teens who have more than 5 family dinners on a weekly basis, those who have two or less are 3 times as likely to try marijuana, 2.5 times as likely to smoke cigarettes and 1.5 times as likely to start alcohol consumption.
In addition, the CASA study has discovered all kinds of interesting educational patterns. For instance, parents with less than a high-school education, or with no education at all, ate most frequently with their children, than parents with college or University degrees. Children who ate with their parents on a regular basis said that they got mainly A's and B's at school, and kids born abroad were much more likely to have dinner with family.
However, family researchers say that the benefits of family dinner by no means can be considered as automatic. Parents can sit down to dinner with their kids every day and achieve nothing. No family dinner can benefit if there is too much arguing going on, if there is no meaningful conversation or, what is even worse, if there is just plain silence during gathering. The following tips are suggested to try to get all going smooth and beneficial for each family member.
To start with- TV, radio, phones, text messaging- it all should be eliminated.
Set the table together with children and encourage them to clean up with you. This way everyone will feel important. It will be good for kids if they know they help their parents, and, it will make them feel important because they contributed.
All family members should be present if possible, no excuses for teenagers to be absent.
After-school activities have to be chosen carefully in order to preserve the dinner ritual for most days of the week.
Try to eat at home as much as possible. Your family will get nourishment from foods like lean meat, poultry, fruits, vegetables and whole wheat. These foods are not only healthier, but they are more filling, too. Kids will have less desire to look for all possible snacks and junk food.
Remember that it is never too late to start a family dinner ritual. Just find a routine that works best for your family.
The important part of regular family dinner together is to exchange ideas and find out "what is going on." It is a great way for mom and dad to set and discuss certain rules, to monitor kid's friends, and be a good role model themselves. The benefits of eating together will last much longer than many people might think, especially if your family mealtimes become a regular activity.