Sep 01 2009

Graehm Gray: Childhood Obesity and The Family Dining Table

By Graehm Gray

I was having dinner the other night at the house of a close friend of mine. As we sat down, I noticed that my friend and his wife were seated next to me and his three kids were across the table. The room was peaceful. The food on the table was served family style. At first, there was a bit of calm in the conversation. Then I started to ask the kids, all of whom I’ve known since their birth; what they did that day, how was school, what activities were they involved with? Suddenly, like a volcanic eruption, all the kids spoke up. It was terrific! We all had a great discussion on; why there is so much homework these days and what they served for lunch and what sports they were doing. I heard all about the teachers; who was great, who was strict. I heard about one of the students who slipped in the cafeteria, and about an upcoming Washington project. It was a wonderful time, listening to these kids discuss their day. Pretty soon the mom and dad were both involved in the fray about how much time is devoted to homework and how much time is devoted to extracurricular activities. Inevitably the conversation included how much time is spent watching TV, on the computer and of course with a teen age daughter, on the phone. Many specialists recommend cutting down on technology time and increasing family talking time and exercise. 

After dinner, I sat with my friend and asked him what his secret was in raising such good kids, and he told me that it was not a science. Both he and his wife talk to and listen to their kids. They have a family meal almost every night and a quick family breakfast. On the weekends, besides the meals, they try to do family activities with their kids. Sometimes when either my friend or his wife is busy, the other one is there. They act as a team! He went on to tell me that he believes that in any shape or form, it’s the strength of the family unit and the quality time that you spend with your kids that provides the groundwork for both their current and future well being. He also said that a single parent or grandparent raising a child alone can accomplish as much as the typical family unit if they remember the benefits of quality time. He said point blank, “Both my wife and I are totally involved in our kids lives”.

So it comes down to this: research has shown that eating family meals together is better for the nutritional and psychological well being of children (of all ages). Studies have shown that eating family meals together will be a factor against the development of childhood obesity. Taking the time to talk to your kids about their day and their activities and most of all listen to your kids is one of the most important aspects in the development of their minds and their behavior. The family meal is the perfect place to do this. Time is so short. Our kids grow up way to fast! Soon they are out of the house, with their friends, in college, working, and eventually living on their own.

Take the time now, when you have them at your table. They are a wealth of fantastic information and stories. These are some of the most precious moments of history you can collect! And it pays off! They will notice that you are there for them, that you care about them and they will reward you with much more than you can imagine.

Take the time!!! Get to the table, the family dining table. Get there, eat there, talk there! Be there!

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Posted in: Editor's Page