Sunday, August 8, 2010

Family Meal Time. The Shocking Statistics

I brought my oldest son in for his yearly physical today and upon arriving I was asked to fill out some paperwork.  One form consisted of several questions pertaining to the amount of fruits/veggies my child eats a day, how much television he watches, if there is a television in his room and if he eats at the table with the family at least twice a week.  Since I am a research junkie I decided to browse a few of these areas to see what the "norm" is in America because in our household we eat at least two meals together a day and breakfast is always with Mom and the kids during the week and all five of us on the weekends.

As far as television goes we do not watch TV but do view movies on a limited basis and my children will not have a television in their room.  There is one TV located in the family room and that is enough.  However, I do know that we are definitely not the "norm"... let's take a look at some statistics shall we.

 I stumbled across a site called Parenting 24/7 and here is what I found.
"For many American families, the shared mealtime is less and less common. One in four parents reported that their families eat together four or fewer times per week. One in ten parents admitted that they eat only one or no meals per week with their children."

Perhaps this sad statistic is due to the fact that most Americans spend hours in front of the television as evidenced below.

According to the Los Angeles Times in 2009:
"The Nielsen Co.'s "Three Screen Report" -- referring to televisions, computers and cellphones -- for the fourth quarter said the average American now watches more than 151 hours of TV a month. That's about five hours a day and an all-time high, up 3.6% from the 145 or so hours Americans reportedly watched in the same period last year.
The average U.S. household now contains more televisions than people, which means that family members or roommates can watch their favorite shows alone."
You can view the rest of the article here .

When speaking recently to someone the subject was brought up that this person did not have much alone time with their spouse.  I recommended that the person set the table with linen and nice dinnerware and light some candles and have a romantic dinner just the two of them.  The person then laughed and replied "You may think this is strange but we do not eat dinner at the table.  We each have our own TV trays and we eat in front of the television."  My reply was "I do not think it strange... sadly, I think that is normal this day and age."

We wonder why divorce is at an all time high, why children are obese, and why teenage drug use and pregnancy are becoming common in our high schools.
According to the NYU Child Study Center :

"Family meals are becoming a lost ritual, and since their benefits are extensive, it's important to get them back. A report issued by CASA (National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University) found that teens that have two or fewer family dinners per week are twice as likely to smoke daily and to get drunk monthly compared to teens who have family dinners five times per week."
According to the statistics we do not spend enough quality time with our families and when we as parents are not investing time into our kids then someone/something else is, someone/something else will step in and fill the void if we are not present.

How does your family rate against the norm?

 Do you eat meals together at the table or are you gathered in front of the television most nights barely uttering a word to each other during commercial breaks?

 Try taking an inventory this week of how much time you are spending as a family, are you eating meals together regularly and are you taking time out of your day to let your children know in tangible ways that you love them.  If you need ideas on how to establish a family meal time click on the links above... and enjoy the intimacy that is gained by breaking bread with those closest to you.

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