“They broke bread in their home and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.” Acts 2:46
My focus in Nutrition and Wellness has always been primarily on the nutrition part of the course. Even when classes begin cooking and baking, the emphasis is on which nutrients are you eating and how do they benefit your body.
There are other components to the nutrition story besides nutrients, and not surprisingly, God has given us guidance on those. One that is attracting a lot of research now is the importance of eating together as a family. In the U.S., Americans now eat most of their meals alone. A new study has found that families are having difficulty finding time in everyone’s busy schedules to eat together. Thanks to a variety of factors, including our high-tech, low-touch world, our teenagers, in particular, find it easier to interact via a screen. They would rather text than call or send an email instead of having a face-to-face conversation. Even though these may be more convenient methods of interaction, they are certainly sterile, unrealistic and unfulfilling.
Most American families are starved for time to spend together and dinner may be the only time we can enjoy each other’s company, relax and share the day’s events. Some of the benefits of family mealtime have been proven to counteract the effects of “tech lag.” Recent studies have shown that family dinners positively impact substance abuse, teen pregnancy and depression. Also, higher grade point averages and self-esteem are attributed to the shared meal. Dinner conversation has been shown to increase your child’s vocabulary, which in turn puts them ahead at school. Regular family meals also lower the rates of obesity and eating disorders in our children.
I know what you are thinking — “How can I get past the monosyllabic answer and have real communication?” Here are some suggestions for jumpstarting your dinner table conversations:
- Children of all ages love stories about their parents, what they did as kids and even how they met each other.
- Tell family stories about an ancestor and relate it to the historical events surrounding his/her life.
- How did you choose the child’s name or how were the parents names chosen.
- If you had 3 wishes, what would they be?
- If you could be any animal, what would you pick and why?
- Discuss public figures, sports stars, politicians, actors public events or news of the day etc.
- Play a word game or ask each person what their favorite part of the day was (every night) or what future event they are looking forward to.
The real power of family dinners lies in the camaraderie and sharing. Kids who eat dinner with their parents experience less stress and have a better relationship with them. What other activity can do so much in just one hour per day?
Family & Consumer Science Teacher