Family meal times
Getting the whole family to sit down for dinner can be next to impossible – with sport practice, working late and homework taking up the evening hours, many family members eat at whatever time best suits them. But research shows that families who eat together regularly (that’s more than three times a week), have more positive outcomes when it comes to health, family relationships and social development.
The family dinner table, after all, is where children learn manners, converse and interact with grownups, share what’s happening in their lives and experience new foods. The preparation of food and the table setting process are all part of the roles in a family and shape thoughts and feelings around food and family.
Societal changes that have decreased family meal times:
• We’re spending more hours at work
• Many Australians are living alone
• More mothers are in paid work
• There has been an increase in the number of single parent households and/or family displacement
• There’s more technology being used in the household
• More and more people are spending more on food and drink away from the home
Benefits associated with frequent family meal times:
• Improved relationships between family members
• Increased intake of healthy foods and healthier eating habits
• Increased understanding of social behaviours
• Improved speech for children
• Better mental health outcomes
• Decreased risk of children taking up smoking, drugs or having problems with the law.
What you can do:
• If you’re not already eating together regularly, aim to do so one night a week.
• If dinnertime is too hard to get everyone together, try to have a special family breakfast on the weekends or a family lunch.
• During the week, don’t worry if everyone can make it. Sit with whoever is at home, TV off and enjoy a meal.
• Ignore all phones, turn off the TV and ban texting at the table.
• At a loss for conversation? Ask each family member to share one good thing and one bad thing that happened during their day.
• Take turns talking so no one is left out. Use an egg timer for little kids if they tend to ramble!
• Get your children involved in the meal preparation. Older kids can take charge of the whole meal, while younger ones can help set the table.