Just like a snowflake, not everyone’s upbringing is the same. Some families are small in size; some are large in size, but why is it that there are a decreased number of families eating dinners together? Something as simple as eating a meal as a family can really shape the future of society. One would say, for example with the world growing so rapidly with technology and everyone’s schedule changing by the minute, it’s getting increasingly difficult for families to come together for dinner to enjoy “family time.” Parents should provide an opportunity at least five days a week for their family to come together for an uninterrupted meal, because it instills manners, encourages healthy eating habits and provides face to face contact between family members for communication. So why has the dinner table become a thing of the past? Favorite television shows, video games, and cell phones are just a few examples of this modern technology-driven society.
With a lot of everyday communication now coming by way of a screen, people old and young have become accustomed to non-face to face human interaction. This can surely contribute to families being separated during dinner time. Nowadays it is very easy to just “text” your child to come and grab their dinner plate, instead of physically walking over to where they are to tell them dinner is ready. The child may be in the middle of a chaotic war scene in a video game while online, where there is no “pause” button. The person may not want to end their game early, for if they do they lose all accomplishments they have earned for the past hour. What can parents do when the child blatantly disregards their presence at the dinner table, or say those famous words, “I’m not hungry,” in order to finish that important video game? Even though technology has brought society closer to the rest of humanity, it is the family meal which brings families closer one another.
According to Mark Hyman, M.D. “In 1900, 2 percent of meals were eaten outside the home. In 2010, 50 percent of meals were eaten away from home.” Society has grown more than anyone could ever imagine over this century for better or worse. Busy schedules exist more than ever. Be it school, after-school activities, or work commitments, technology is not the only hindrance on families dining together. Trying to squeeze work, after-school activities, homework, chores and other extracurricular activities in a 24 hour period while trying to find time to sit at the dinner table for 30 minutes, can be a chore in itself for any family. But there are major benefits of doing so. Families that eat together, stay together. A statement that has been related to prayer now holds equally true when it comes to the evening meal. For 18 years, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA Columbia) has been studying the relationship between family mealtime and youth behaviors.
“Teens who eat family dinners at least five times per week report better relationships with their parents, less drug and alcohol use, less smoking, more frequent attendance at religious services and lower levels of stress than teens who have family dinners less than three times a week,” the CASA Columbia research indicates. This alone should encourage parents to free up the families schedule to save this dying tradition. Some would argue that family dinnertime was once a time that gave families a chance to relax, explore each other’s daily life experiences, and plan for future adventures. In today’s society, convenience seems to be the popular choice in people’s lives. With the average family juggling work, school and other activities, fast meals have quickly become the sought-after selection in households across America.
Be it the old microwave dinner to the drive thru at the fast food joint down the street, people now have the convenience of not having to slave over a hot stove for hours on end to create a meal for their families. How does fast food and quick microwavable meals affect dining at the dinner table? For one, if you have a family of four, four microwavable meals will be done at four different times. This gives each family member a different time to eat that meal. When a family sets off to the local fast food restaurant, some families decide to take the meal home. Sometimes that meal gets half eaten in the vehicle and most of the time each family member will chose a different meal from the other altogether. Some may argue they do not have time to cook a well-balanced meal for their family so they would rather go to a restaurant and eat, still as a family.
According to The Pew Research Center, “73% of people when asked said that they eat out because it is more convenient. However, at an average of six to fifteen dollars per meal, eating out is not all that affordable, and with a few minutes of planning, a meal from home can be just as convenient.” So considering it takes time to drive your family to a restaurant, Chilis for example, order your food, eat and drive back home, $40-$60 later doesn’t seem to convenient after all.
That’s not so say the fast food meal can’t be eating at the dinner table with the family but the time spent for that convenient meal can contribute to the decline of family meals at the dinner table. As society continues to age, the lack of parental guidance seems inevitable. Some families will always instill their own traditions around the dinner table; some families simply will not care. But one thing is for certain, there may be a decrease in the number of families dining together, but what humanity should look at, is the time lost not coming together as a family, if only for thirty minutes a night five days a week. This simple bonding time as a family can shape the future of this world.