Eat With Your Kids
Fresh-squeezed research from the Cold-Toe state (Minnesota, sigh) says that eating family dinners five times a week or more drops a girl’s risk of an eating disorder significantly. And the results go well beyond adolescence:
“Adolescent girls who frequently eat meals with their families appear less likely to use diet pills, laxatives, or other extreme measures to control their weight five years later, according to research led by Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, lead investigator of Project Eating Among Teens (ProjectEAT) at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.”
This is a huge effect, especially considering that eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. It is presumed that girls benefit from the emotional closeness that comes from eating together as well as seeing appropriate eating modeled. Sadly, the findings did not hold true for boys. (Which just goes to show we need more research into male eating disorders, instead of assuming they follow the same pathology as female.)
And NOT With Your Television
People who eat with the TV on are more likely to be obese and have a higher risk for diabetes but beyond the health issues, I think it’s more about what you are not doing if the TV is on: talking.
Dinnertime was sacred at my home growing up. In fact, I remember having a play rehersal one night and my father bringing the entire family to the theater to have dinner with me (of course I was mortified, I was 14). But I have great memories of my family from those evening get togethers. It was where I tried out new words and new ideas. Where I first practiced public speaking (I have 3 sibs – that counts, right??). Where I first learned about nuclear proliferation. And what my dad’s actual job title was. And when my sister got her first kiss. And my brother got asked to prom after dunking the poor girl in ice water (love is strange, I guess!).
I never realized until I was a mother how hard it is to cook something healthy, get the table set with actual dishes (much less something like a centerpiece or, you know, napkins), and then get everyone to sit down at the table at the same time. When it works, I consider it a feat on par with running a six-minute mile. It’s doable but boy howdy, it takes a lot of work! I’m pretty much comatose after dinnertime, which is how all the dishes are often still sitting on the table come breakfast the next morning…
But it is so worth it. You and your kids will be healthier and your relationships will be stronger. And if you let your kids cook and set the table, I guarantee there will also be laughter. Bring on the family mealtime!