We all know that sitting down to a family meal at least once a week is a positive experience for the whole household, but with everyone’s different schedules, sticking to a set day and time can prove tricky. However, as our lives get busier and busier, mobile phones become an ever increasing distraction and anxiety rates rise in both adults and children, there’s a renewed need to bring back the traditional Sunday meal. The sense of togetherness you feel from sharing your thoughts and opinions with loved ones who are genuinely listening to you can’t be underestimated.
A sad statistic from YouGov Omnibus in 2017 found 34% of children eat their dinner in front of the TV and we fear that figure is only rising. And with families increasingly spread all over the UK and for some, in other countries, getting the extended family together can be almost impossible. Fortunately, the Sunday family dinner can come in many guises and you can adapt it to suit your own personal set up.
Here’s how the weekly mealtime can benefit your family and tips for making it a diary must…
It doesn’t taken a brainiac to realise spending quality time around a table as a family can strengthen relationships. An important aspect of sitting down as a family to share food is the sense of belonging it brings, which in turn boosts self-esteem – something which is so important in teenage years. It also allows parents to take on the role of teachers to their children and set a good example with table manners.
The health benefits of eating as a family are huge. Firstly, with a meal like a roast or a barbeque, there are likely to be more vegetables on offer which is great for your five a day. Secondly, family meals are fantastic for the digestion as we eat more slowly when engrossed in conversation. Research also shows that children who eat with their family are at less risk of being involved with substance use and violence.
While not all family mealtimes are relaxing – disagreements are inevitable with opinions flying around – the sense of togetherness is a great stress-buster and eating together on the weekend when you are more chilled out is the ideal time. A study of IBM workers by Brigham Young University in 2008 found that eating with the family reduced tension in working mothers.
A wider vocab
Aside from reading, the family mealtime is a fantastic opportunity for children and teenagers to expand their vocabulary through conversations with their parents. In the relaxed and pressure-free space of the home, children can ask what words mean without embarrassment. It’s also a good time for them to increase their knowledge on an array of subjects and to learn more about family history.
Keep it friendly
Keep the atmosphere warm, open and relaxed so everyone feels they can partake in the conversation and have a turn to speak. The family meal is an excellent time for children to practice their turn-taking skills in a conversation and learn not to interrupt. Of course, the odd argument may occur but try to diffuse this in an adult way so as no to spoil the meal.
The Sunday meal won’t just happen – it takes planning and everyone making a note of the weekly get together. Try to make the family meal a priority until it becomes a habit.
Ban mobile phones and TV
The benefits of the Sunday meal are totally lost of you all sit there scrolling through your Facebook news feed with the TV on in the background. Turn off the devices and talk.
You can include friends too
If you live on your own, don’t have children or your children have left home – or perhaps your family is spread all over now – adapt the family theme to suit you. Why not invite some friends over for Sunday dinner? The feeling of belonging comes through meals with friends too.
Get the kids involved
Sitting down to eat is just one part of the Sunday meal; there’s also the preparation to think of which strengthens family bonds. Chat to your child while they help peel the potatoes, ask family to help set the table and have a giggle together while you wash up afterwards. You’ll look back on these memories fondly.
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