Lifestyle Lesson 3: Table talk matters (with the television off)
For many modern families, the idea of sitting down together to enjoy a home-cooked meal at 6 pm each weeknight is a pretty unfamiliar scenario. Long working hours with even longer commutes, both parents at work and an increasing number of single parent families are just some reasons why the family meal seems to be going the way of dinosaurs. It’s becoming clear, however, that the simple act of enjoying a meal together as a family a few nights each week delivers a lifetime of health and psychological benefits.
Teens who sit down to eat family meals at least four times each week are significantly less likely to have weight issues or become trapped in disordered eating behaviours. Furthermore, they do better at school, can manage stress better and are less likely to abuse tobacco and alcohol. Pretty convincing stuff! As yet we can’t explain exactly why this is so, but when families sit around the dinner table, they talk and listen and scientists believe that it’s this communication that supports kids’ emotional needs, helping them become resilient and develop coping skills that they can use at school, in the playground and in social situations. Family meals also give Mum and Dad an opportunity to make sure their kids are getting the right stuff to grow and thrive and to eat their greens too – thus giving their kids a great example to follow.
So, even if you can only manage to make a date to dine with your family once or twice each week, start making an effort to do so; the rewards will repay you. And make sure that you turn the television off to let the conversation flow ...
Susie Burrell is a specialist Weight Management Dietitian at The Children's Hospital at Westmead. In her private practice, she balances her clinical work with writing for print and electronic media. For more information check out: www.susieburrell.com.au