By Raymond Shipley
Family time. That often overlooked aspect of growing up is likely one of the most important values to instil in our children. The thesis of many essays and articles about family tend to focus on what can cause negative behavior and how these can be avoided, but let us take a moment to focus on what produces the positive. Parents, and society as a whole, want children to be happy and socially engaged, motivated and animated, decent and accomplished. Quality family time is paramount to producing such results.
Perhaps the easiest way to increase both quality and quantity time with family is to have shared meals. Seemingly a throwback to 1950s America, this little remedy produces wondrous results in children, and because both parents and children spend a decent amount of time each day eating, shared meals provide an excellent opportunity for spending quality and quantity family time. Unfortunately, spending time together at meals has become rarer and rarer in the West, and the results have been less than desirable.
According to The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, roughly 40-50% of American families eat together no more than a few times per week, and some never do. An estimated 20% of meals are consumed in cars, and even among family meals 75% last less than 30 minutes and many take place in front of the TV. These numbers are far from ideal.
The same study revealed children in families eating together frequently benefit in myriad ways. These children are happier and healthier, get better grades in school, and are less likely to smoke, drink or use other drugs. Moreover, they have better relationships with parents and siblings. Children, including teenagers, who do not share frequent meals with family often desire to do so more often, citing "catching up with the family" as a primary reason.
The typical friendly gathering often centers around what food is prepared and setting a place for everyone, and yet we do not extend this same courtesy and arrangement to our families with the same zeal. It should be of no major consequence in our busy lives to at least schedule one, major family banquet along with a few simple sit down meals per week. Nourish the body and family at the same time.
So, bring the family together in preparation and at the table. Family is the basic unit of society. Fix the family, and society will follow. Cheers, and enjoy your meal!