Why We Gather Around the Dining Table and Eat Together

Far too often, we are busy with jobs, children, and after-school activities, making it hard to schedule family dinners. It’s more convenient to eat while we multi-task or on the go.

The dining table has become less the center of family life; however, this approach is deeply flawed.

For most households, this is the reality. While it might seem “more efficient,” it ignores many connections and rituals formed around mealtime.

Why do we eat together – and more importantly, how do we get back to a healthy, enjoyable, and fulfilling communal dining experience as a family?

Why Do We Eat Together?

So many of our human behaviors are communal, and eating is no exception.

Food isn’t just about survival but instead about connecting with our families and friends. The dining table is where we become more aware of the people we care about and who we are, helping us create memories and building character.

Eating at a dinner table involves both eating and talking. It’s not just the actual eating of the food that confers familial influence, either – even the act of preparing a meal or setting the dinner table requires us to connect with those around us.

Sitting down for a meal has countless benefits for every family member, but unfortunately, it’s a habit that has gone by the wayside. Below, we explore a few reasons why this ritual needs to return to nurture a healthy family lifestyle.

Why Should We Bring Back Family Communal Dining?

The most important relationship to a child is the one they develop with their parent or caregiver. Eating meals together encourages parent-child dialogue and creates habits that foster a healthy mental and physical way of living.

1. Improves Eating Habits

It should not surprise you that families who eat meals together eat healthier diets. There’s less snacking, more consumption of fruits and vegetables, and fewer fast food and sugary beverages included in the diet.

According to a study in JAMA Network Open, this holds true regardless of other factors, such as family dysfunction, trauma, and conflict.

Shared family meals can also help curtail weight issues later on in life. When families gather for meals, it can help prevent weight struggles in their children later on.

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2. Prevents Psychological Issues

Regularly eating meals together as a family can help prevent issues with all kinds of psychological behaviors, including violence, alcohol, substance abuse, eating disorders, depression, and even suicidal ideation.

Although all children benefit from this effect, young women see the most significant benefit.

3. Improves Self-Esteem

When a child eats a meal with his family, it can improve his self-confidence, according to experts at Stanford Children’s Health. There are countless reasons for this phenomenon, but most experts believe that the self-esteem boost comes through communicating with your child and showing that you value and respect them.

You can amplify this effect by encouraging some autonomy at mealtime. Let your child choose his seat, ask him to assist with chores related to meal preparation or clean-up, and have them set the table. All of these tasks can help build your child’s sense of independence and self-worth.

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4. Boosts Communication Skills

Multiple studies demonstrate that children who engage in regular social interaction and discussions with their families show better health and communication skills.

These interactions improve children’s problem-solving skills by talking through issues with their parents and siblings. Because the dinner table produces a “captive audience,” so to speak, there’s no excuse for these conversations not to happen.

5. It’s a Form of Therapy

Suppose you find that your children struggle in school, act out behaviorally, or suffer poor self-esteem. In that case, the act of simply sitting down to eat a meal together gives you quality time and creates a safe environment where they feel comfortable to explore their challenges with you.

Don’t pay for costly family counseling – at least, not until you’ve tried having a few meals together first.

Shared dining habits can provide valuable insight into how a family interacts. It allows them to explore new communication patterns and delve into issues or conflicts that the family might be experiencing. Teens who eat dinner with their families generally report fewer bullying issues – there’s just more parental guidance and open communication.

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How to Bring Back Family Dinnertime

The benefits of eating together as a family can’t be ignored -so it’s essential to find the time to sit down and eat a full meal together.

There’s no rule about where a family dinner has to take place – so consider scheduling a day of the week when the family goes out for dinner together – This can also remove many distractions that can derail the family meal, such as the television or computer.

You can also try to just eat together on the weekends. If weeknights are too busy and you’re juggling multiple extracurriculars and work commitments late into the evening – make a plan to eat all weekend meals together instead.

The most significant benefits of family mealtime are seen when you are consistent and frequent in your meals together. The reality is that even just one or two family meals together a week can make a big difference if you’re not eating together at all right now.

Why do we eat together? It’s simple – when we eat together, we grow together.

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