Gathering around the dinner table for a family meal is a wonderful part of the holidays, but this shouldn’t be the only time we do so. A recent study says we should enjoy such meals on a regular basis, especially if we’re parents because this can have a major impact on our children’s mental health.
A Closer Look at Research
According to researchers, 6-year-old children who eat means with their family had better social skills and overall health (e.g. better fitness, lower soda intake) and social skills when they were 10 years old when compared with those children who rarely ate meals with their family. The study was co-authored by Linda Pagani from Canada’s Université de Montréal. Pagani and her colleagues then reported this finding in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics. However, this isn’t the first study that suggests frequent family meals benefits a child’s health.
Another study was published in 2011. According to that study, children who ate at least three meals with their family each week were less likely to be overweight than children who did not. Pagani suggests studies like this one have some shortcomings though. This was mainly because they didn’t look at whether intact families were simply healthier overall. Keeping this limitation in mind, Pagani worked with her colleagues to perform a longitudinal analysis that determined how eating meals together on a regular basis affected children’s physical and mental health.
Improving Fitness and Social Skills
In Pagani’s study researchers included data from 1,492 children who were participating in the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development. These children were born between 1997 – 1998 and had been followed by this study since they were 5 months old. Once they reached 6-years-old parents reported how frequently they enjoyed meals together as a family. Then when the children turned 10-years-old their mental health was assessed.
Marie-Josée Harbec from the Université de Montréal helped co-author this study. Harbec says that since they had a lot of information about the children who participated in the study before they were 6 years old (e.g. temperament, cognitive abilities, mother’s education, psychological well-being, family configuration, and functionality) they could easily eliminate any pre-existing conditions that could’ve skewed the results in any way. As such, Harbec believes the study was ideal.
Pagani and her research team truly believe that when a child’s parents are present with them to enjoy a family meal there’s an opportunity for the child to engage in social interaction. During this time the child can discuss their daily lives and any issues or concerns they may have. This type of positive communication then helps a child be better equipped to engage in better communication skills with other people – those outsides of their family unit. As such, the research “proves” that a family meal really does have a long-term influence on the child’s health, especially their mental health.
They went on to also say that unfortunately eating meals in front of the TV has become the new norm. However, we now have a strong argument for reverting back to the old tradition of enjoying our meals together with our other family members. This is a very timely remark as families are being torn in all ways and directions today. As such, Pagani believes a new ad campaign showing the impact of a family meal on a person’s mental health is necessary.
While enjoying a family meal can be very beneficial to your mental health, there are still other factors that play a role here. If you’re struggling in any regard in this area of your life, contact The TMS Advantage today. They look forward to helping you live a happy, whole life.
Picture Credit: skeeze