Sunday dinners: Why this important tradition needs to make a comeback

Family mealtimes are an important time of day when we can all relax and share our stories of the day.

Over the past 20 years family mealtimes have declined by 33 percent with more people going out to eat.

I grew up with a set time for Sunday dinner also, even when I was in my teens, I always knew I had to be home at a certain time on Sunday to eat with the family and sometimes my grandparents.

But this is a tradition that is declining as families get more and more busy and it’s having a negative and physical effect on children, according to the experts.

Kids that eat regularly with their parents have a better relationship with them.

Family Dinner
The Scramble

According to a report in the “Journal of Adolescent Health” published in April 2012, kids who have regular family meals have fewer issues.

“More frequent family dinners are related to fewer emotional and behavioral problems, greater emotional well-being, more trusting and helpful behaviors towards others and higher life satisfaction,” the report said.

An NPR poll by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard School of Public Health found that busy family schedules were to blame for the decline  in families eating together.

Almost 50 percent of those surveyed said eating together was difficult to do on a regular basis.

“Fewer than half the parents surveyed admitted that they had eaten together six or seven nights out of the previous week.”

Family eating dinner together
Wikimedia Commons

Family mealtimes are not only better for our mental health but also our physical health.

Anne Fishel, Ph.D., a family therapist and co-founder of The Family Dinner Project said the  psychological benefits included “lower rates of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse and fewer behavioral problems in school.”

For those who find the idea of throwing together the perfect meal for the whole family at the drop of a hat a daunting task, experts say it doesn’t have to be that complicated.

16 opportunities every week to eat together

“These benefits don’t derive from a perfect roast chicken or organic tomatoes but instead from the atmosphere at the table,” adds Fishel.

“Sunday dinner doesn’t have to be on Sunday. Pick whatever day or time works for you and your family.

“Keep in mind that there are at least sixteen opportunities a week to eat together – seven breakfasts, seven dinners and two weekend lunches,” says Fishel.

Watch Heidi Weinstein talk about why it’s so important to bring the American family back to the dinner table in the clip below.

A family meal or even a snack can be any time of the day on any day but that face-to-face interaction with our loved ones if vital for children to thrive.

Please share if you miss Sunday family dinners.


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