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Why families must eat together

Several years ago, families eat together, at least, once every day. Most of the time, this happened in the evening when everyone would have been through with the day’s work. 

So, dinner time is always a time when most families come together. At this period, records show that all the children regardless of their numbers and mothers gather together to eat in one bowl, in groups, making it difficult for any of their mothers to poison the food out of bitterness. Beyond this, this sole exercise makes the children bond together and also bond with their parents.

Unfortunately, this is no longer so.  Whereas parents of those years had the opportunity or make it a point of duty to spend quality time with their families at the close of everyday work, today’s parents do not.  Many parents these days only see their children while they are asleep in the morning and at nights when they come back. The few who are not unlucky to work at weekends are the only ones who can boldly say they spend time with their children during the weekends.

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A career woman, Mrs. Durosinmi Adegoke, explains why this is so: “I am a banker and, like every other career person, I wake up very early to set out for my office that is located on the Island. This is always too early for the kids to wake up. So, they are left in the care of the house help, who would have woken up earlier to prepare whatever food they will take to school.

Most times, I leave the house with their father and I do not get to come back home until 9pm when they, most times, would have slept. So, I just go to their rooms to see how they are faring and may not see them until the weekends. So, I really do not get to share any meal with them until weekends. It is as bad but this is the society we live in.”

But is this ideal? Is the traditional family dinner (at least) a thing of the past? Is it right to downplay an institution that was once a cornerstone of the African home but has become obsolete with changing times?  “No,” says a sexagenarian, Mr. Nelson Ogbei. “The old family values need to be brought back. Families should begin to bond again like they used to do in the good old days.  When they eat together, they share stories, values, good morals, love that will go a long way in defining the children, who will end up becoming the hope of this nation. Because this is missing, that is why the society is full of vagabonds, irresponsible youths who are more into criminal activities than legitimate activities that are very unhealthy for the future of the nation,” he said.

In today’s households where both parents go to work and kids have busy schedules with school homework and an array of other activities on the social media, finding time for a gathering at the table seems very impossible.

Yet, studies have shown time and again that eating together has more benefits for everyone involved, especially the children. These benefits are not just for nutritional purposes but also in many other aspects.

According to a number of reports issued by the National Centre on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA), children who eat, at least, five times a week with their family are at lower risk of developing poor eating habits, weight problems or alcohol and substance dependencies, and tend to perform better academically than their peers, who frequently eat alone or away from home.

Beyond this, eating together as a family teaches the children how to become members of their society their culture and other healthy lifestyle.

Other benefits include:

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It encourages family togetherness

Positive family mealtimes help family members maintain relationships and feel a sense of belonging. When children can count on regular time with a parent or adults, they feel loved, safe and secure. Children set roots for a lifetime, as they experience their family’s values and traditions

It fosters happy, well-adjusted kids

When families eat together, they feel accepted by their family and may not need to seek approval from the wrong crowd.  When they become adolescents, they are less likely to be depressed and generally have better self-esteem. They are less likely to smoke cigarettes, use marijuana, illegal drugs or alcohol.

It helps them do better in school

Listening to grownups at the table exposes children to new works, which helps them read better.  They gain confidence to speak up in class. Parents are more likely to know about deadlines for homework, upcoming test days, and ways they can be involved with what their children are doing in school. Cooking together teaches children and teens how to plan meals and prepare food – and how to clean up!

It prevents weight problems

Children and teens are less likely to be overweight since they learn to eat healthful meals. They make better food choices than when they are eating alone and with outsiders.  They are also likely to have any eating disorder. Besides being economical, it is fun when families eat together.  Meal times afford parents time to share and savour good times with their kids at the table. Stories that can make everyone laugh come up at such times.