Hollywood Might Have the Right Idea About Family Meals
Recently, I saw a meme that struck a chord with me. It was about how in every movie, characters see a breakfast with toast and eggs and fresh-squeezed orange juice, and cereal and bacon, and the whole nine, yet they run out the door with a single piece of dry toast because they are late. But the expectation is that the main character will make an appearance, say hi to their loved ones, get some nutrients in their body to start their day, and then dash out the door.
If it’s not breakfast depicted in the movie, it’s dinner. A nice, sit-down, nuclear family eating dinner. Mom is serving mashed potatoes and Dad is cutting the meatloaf. The teenage child is actually venting about their problems, and a younger child makes a bad joke. We’re all too familiar with the scene and likely have never imitated it. That’s okay; a family doesn’t have to look or talk or act like a movie screen family. That’s just not possible.
The key idea from these scenes is not how the family looks or acts, it’s about being together.
Whether it is dinner, breakfast, lunch, brunch, or whatever alternative works for your family, the idea that the family is sharing time is important. It’s not specific to the meal, but rather the idea of spending time together and the psychological reassurance that there is structure to their day. The meal is a delicious excuse to interrupt a busy schedule and fulfill a basic need, while also teaching children communication skills and heightening their self-esteem. “By listening to what children have to say, you are saying, "I value what you do; I respect who you are and what you're doing; what you do is important to me," according to Stanford Children’s Health. These conversations help “them handle the stresses of daily life and the hassles of day-to-day existence.” As an added bonus, The Vanier Institute of The Family has found that children with a regular family meal are higher achievers and less likely to engage in high-risk behaviors.
In addition, another benefit is combating nutritional challenges.
Once again, Stanford Children’s Health discovered that “eating together tends to promote more sensible eating habits, which in turn helps family members manage their weight more easily.” Not only do children learn appropriate choices, but adults make better choices. The all too common trade of dessert for finishing vegetables immediately comes to mind. When children are left to eat alone, no adult is there to monitor whether or not the broccoli was eaten or thrown away before the brownie was consumed.
With all the benefits and lack of any drawbacks, it’s hard to argue against having a family meal at some point during the day.
Perhaps in this individual scenario, the movies do have the right idea. Setting a child on a path for success isn’t easy, but carving out an hour each day is a relatively easy and natural way to ensure their ultimate success, whilst doing good for the parents as well.
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