Sunday, January 23, 2011

Doctor’s Orders

The importance of creating family mealtimes together.
By Lauren Arbolino, PhD a child psychologist (aka the woman who introduced me to my husband)

Experts in child care, child development, psychology, education and sociology understand that families are dynamic systems with shared practices and beliefs that contribute to child well-being and preparedness to learn.

Many studies in these fields have examined family rituals and routines as it applies to creating mealtimes together. Experts in these areas suggest that eating family meals may enhance the health and well-being of adolescents. Public education on the benefits of family mealtime is recommended and suggests that more families make this a priority in their routine.

Studies have shown that frequency of family meals was inversely associated with tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana use; low grade point average; depressive symptoms; and suicide involvement. At this stage, we know family mealtimes can help reduce risk factors for adolescents. We also know of the many benefits to these gatherings. The practices of diverse family routines and the meanings created through rituals have evolved to meet the demands of today's busy families. Family routines and rituals influence physical and mental health, translate cultural values, and may even be used therapeutically. Family mealtimes are associated with significant issues including parenting competence, child adjustment, and relational well-being. It is important for families to adapt a flexible approach to family time to promote healthier families and communities.

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