Contributor: Reed Markham
Our family has a dinner tradition that began when I was a child. At a preset time, we turn off the technology – television set, iPad, video games, and computers. And we each do our part in preparing for the meal. The tasks usually include emptying the dishwasher, setting the table, and preparing the food. We enjoy our meal and pleasant dinner conversation. At the end of the meal, each of us assists with clearing the table and moving the dishes to the sink.
As a child, I lived through the Star Trek era. Life was simpler back then. Dinner time was set at 6 p.m. every day. I was raised with six brothers and one sister. My mother had to prepare large amounts of food that was quickly consumed by my hungry father and brothers. My least favorite foods were red beets and lima beans. Leftover food was saved. The leftovers were combined at the end of the week for a meal we called goulash. I have great memories of interesting dinner conversations.
Do you remember the last time you had dinner together as a family? I came across an interesting study on family dinners from the University of Florida. The researchers found that taking the time to have dinner together as a family at least four times a week has positive effects on child development. The researchers also found that eating dinner together on a regular basis reduces the chance of your child becoming involved in substance abuse. Parents can also monitor the health of a child and make sure they are getting a nutritious meal. Families that eat together have a less obesity and problems with weight.
In my discussion with many parents, family dinners has one of their most cherished memories. I have great memories of my mother spending the time to provide my family members with a delicious home cooked meal. I remember numerous dinner table discussions about school, work, politics, and relationships. Communication skills of family members are increased with this activity. America is moving away from healthy face to face communication. Having family dinners together is worth the sacrifice of time and effort.
It’s often difficult for parents to schedule a time when family can gather together to enjoy a meal. Take control of your household technology. Today’s families have many technological distractions – from video games to countless hours spent on Facebook. Some researchers say that the average student spends over an hour a day on some form of social media including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Recent studies indicate that teenagers spent about nine hours a day on some form of media. Some families struggle with children checking their cell phones while eat a meal.I highly recommend a no technology zone during dinner time. The no technology zone would include television, cell phones, tablets, computers and video game players.
Family dinners can provide a boost to your child’s self-esteem. Many children suffer from low self-esteem. The average child in school today will receive over 200.000 negative messages by the time they reach their eighteen birthday. Children need an opportunity at home to communicate their frustration, accomplishments and memories. Family conversations help combat a number of problems faced by today’s youth including loneliness, overuse of social media, and low grades. The efforts to spend time together as a family for dinner has many benefits that should not be overlooked.
Reed Markham is a speech communication professor at Daytona State College.
What is your favorite family meal memory?