There has been a great deal of hoopla over the past ten years or so about family meals. Some researchers have claimed they reduce childhood obesity, raise GPAs, reduce depression, reduce delinquency, and a host of other benefits.
The truth isn’t quite so amazing. When factors such as socioeconomics, family structure and other demographics are controlled for, it appears that family meals slightly reduce childhood depression, and that’s it. All the other ‘benefits’ are simply correlated with the other features that contribute to a family that sits down together for a daily meal.
But I like to think that, just as smiling makes you happier, sitting down to a family meal every day makes the family better. It makes it more likely the family will have the other characteristics that lead to higher GPAs, lower obesity, etc.
A family meal is a time to talk to each other, to discuss current events, ideas, and feelings. It’s a time to teach children manners and respect for one another. It’s a chance for quality time with the people we love—why not take advantage of it? You’ve all got to eat—make the most of it.
We eat dinner as a family every day, and on weekends, we eat lunch together. Sunday, we even sit down together for breakfast. Sometimes I’m reluctant to take the time for a family meal, particularly lunch, when I’m in the middle of the day’s work, and would prefer just to grab a quick bite and be on my way. But a family meal forces me to slow down. It forces me to check in with my family and see how their day is going. A family meal reminds me that my work is less important than my family, and I regularly change my day’s plans based on what I see the family needs when we sit down to eat.
Because we eat together, I not only talk to my family more, but I play more games with the kids, I do more projects with them, I go to the beach more often, and I stress less about life.
So pull up a chair. Fill your plate. Sit down, and tell me about your day.