Eating together provides health benefits, too. Sitting down to a meal makes eating a more conscious activity and provides a bigger measure of control over what and how much your family consumes. Being a gourmet or scratch cook isn’t necessary or even the point. Research shows that simply eating together regularly results in lower rates of obesity and eating disorders in children and adolescents.
Whether it’s basic table manners, family recipes and traditions, or world events, dinner table conversations are rife with subtle learning opportunities. But while healthy debate provides valuable food for thought, it’s often a good idea to ban matters of conflict or touchy subjects and stick to more inclusive topics. Table talk about disappointing grades or school conduct might be a recipe for mealtime disaster and better saved for a private chat at another time.
“We sit down around the same table my family sat at when I grew up, in chairs my parents bought in the 1950s, and we talk, and we share and we laugh,” says Precourt.
Brenek agrees that is the best benefit of sharing meals. “Sometimes (husband) Glen and I don’t say a word the whole meal. The kids are all busy talking, debating and joking,” she says. “Those are my favorite times.”
Create an experience
While there is no magic method for maximizing meal time, most agree that technology should be off the table, not because it’s a bad thing, but because it’s a distraction. Except in rare circumstances, there isn’t a call, text, or tweet that can’t wait until after everyone is excused.
But eating together and technology are not always mutually exclusive. A favorite TV series, movie or holiday special may call the whole family into the living room to watch together. And letting a different person choose music to stream in the background is a good way to keep kids at the table longer—and may just provide something else to talk about!
While certain standards might be kept regarding manners, talk topics and distractions, too many rigid rules can make the experience more of a chore than a cherished time. Create an environment for comfortable conversation and sharing, so that you’re guaranteed a dinner invitation the whole family is eager to accept.
By// Stacy Berry
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