While paying attention to individual interests is fine, it’s also important to remember that sharing a meal is not just about eating, but also about strengthening family bonds and making pleasant memories. No wonder, Time magazine reports that the more often families eat together; the less likely that kids are going to smoke, drink, do drugs or get depressed.
Says Akhila Shivdas of the Centre for Media Advocacy, “Cable television has changed our eating habits. Now, everyone wants to watch TV while eating, nobody wants to eat at the dining table. Some people even dread dinnertime. And talking about certain topics is banned. Conversations with our families is minimal, and even when it does take place, it is stressed.”
A recent study on family eating at Columbia University reveals that family dinner gets better with practice; the less often a family eats together, the worse the experience is likely to be. Take this: kids who eat most often with their parents are 40 per cent more likely to say they get mainly As and Bs in school than kids who have two family dinners a week.
Says former actor-turned-yoga expert, Nisha Singh, “When I was growing up, my father insisted that our family ate breakfast together. That was a meal we couldn’t ever miss. Now years later, I realise the importance of eating together. It’s a tradition that’s slowly fading. While sharing a meal, kids learn so many things, like how a conversation is structured, how a problem is solved, how one should listen to other people’s opinions and respect their tastes. I make it a point to be there when my daughter eats as I know the value of sharing a meal.”
Sociologists stress that the power of eating together is a kind of a vaccine that protects kids. Says Miriam Weinstein, who wrote The Surprising Power of Family Meals, “We’ve sold ourselves on the idea that teenagers are obviously sick of their families and that they’re bonded to their peer group. But we’ve taken it to an extreme. We’ve taken it to mean that a teenager has no need for his family. And that’s just not true.”
It’s easy to blame the fast-food culture and the microwave, but parenting rules too seem to have changed over the years. William Doherty, author of The Intentional Family: Simple Rituals to Strengthen Family Ties, writes, “Parents are allowing kids to be. They let them eat as individuals in their room or with friends.”
Now, there’s no routine, no rules, everyone eats what they want, teenagers take a plate to their room so they can keep SMS-ing their friends... As a result, eating together with your family is a dying tradition. It’s time to switch off the TV, go to your dining table and enjoy a hearty meal with your family.