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Family Meals Together
Photo: Mark Monciardini
I remember coming home after school to the delicious aromas emanating from the kitchen. Immediately my mouth would water as my mind made visual that which my nose smelled. A few minutes later with all of us gathered around the table, we enjoyed another meal prepared by my mother’s loving hands. As we shared the rice and lentils, the soup and the salad, we discussed that day’s activities. I remember hearing about my brother’s band practice, my sister’s typing test and my dad’s endless stories and jokes. Now research shows that those meals were not just nutritious to our bodies but they were also making a lasting impact on each of our lives.

In a recent Time magazine article,1 Nancy Gibbs reported on the benefits of family meals. What used to be a wonderful tradition has become rare at best. Recent surveys show that 55 percent of 12-year-olds said they have dinner with their parents every night while merely 26 percent of 17-year-olds do. Thirty-seven percent of surveyed teens said that the TV is on during meals; this figure is up to 45 percent for families who seldom eat together. Cultural differences seem to play a part as 54 percent of Hispanic teens said they eat with a parent most nights, while 40 percent of white teens share a meal with parents. An interesting statistic is that families with less educated parents eat together the most.

Less Likely to Smoke, Do Drugs...

There are many parents who feel that the most important thing is to have their children involved in as many extra-curricular activities as possible. They shuttle the kids to sports activities, music lessons and art classes, and in between they stop at a fast food place for a quick bite. When they finally get home, they sit in front of the TV or the computer screen for hours of no conversation or interaction. These “studies show that the more often families eat together, the less likely kids are to smoke, drink, do drugs, get depressed, develop eating disorders and consider suicide, and the more likely they are to do well in school, delay having sex, eat their vegetables, learn big words, and know which fork to use.” 2

Today’s studies reflect these words from yesteryear: “When the family gathers alone around breakfast or dinner table, the same courtesy should prevail as if guests were present, … Let the conversation be genial, and suited to the little folks as far as possible. Interesting incidents of the day’s experience may be mentioned at the evening meal, thus arousing the social element. If resources fail, sometimes little bits read aloud from the morning or evening paper will kindle the conversation.”3 The warm, pleasant meal, may reflect the kind conversation, and sharing the food accompanies sharing memories.

Now that our daughters are either living on their own or away to college we look forward to each opportunity to sit down together to share a meal and good conversation, and to build lasting memories. So, turn off the TV, let the phone go unanswered and leave things alone that keep you from spending this special time together. Instead make every effort to enjoy at least one daily meal as a family, and rejoice in the glow of special moments.

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By Claudio Consuegra. Reprinted with permission from Mid-America Outlook Magazine, Vol. 27, #9, with permission from the Mid-America Union. Copyright © 2006 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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