Barilla is a food company best known for its Italian foodstuffs, particularly its past products. However, in the last two years it has created innovative Share the Table reports looking at how family life can suffer or benefit over lunch. We’ve appended here the ‘BenefitsofTheFamilyDinnerWhitePaper’ with the full results, but here are an excerpt from the conclusions (SY):
‘Sitting down to dinner together is a cornerstone of family life together. This ritual spans generations and cultures, but what drives our desire to participate in this act? What is the payoff? Do parents and kids have an equal interest in sustaining the family dinner? This year’s Share the Table study shows quite clearly that there is a payoff, in the form of exceptional emotional and social benefits for both parents and kids. These benefits might not be apparent as you sit down to dinner with your family during the week, but they reveal themselves in a study of 2,000 parents and kids who share their experiences about family dinners and their lives in general, and we can see scientifically how the two intersect. Parents may feel that they are the ones who promote spending time with the family, but survey data reveal that family time is a top priority for both parents (88%) and children (79%). Tweens are even more likely than teens to consider time spent connecting with family to be a priority, an important finding to note given the critical emotional and social development years tweens find themselves in. Three quarters (75%) of parents and six out of 10 kids (60%) wish they had more time to spend time together and connect as a family, and for nearly half (47%), busy schedules are the culprit that makes it harder for them to find that time… Children who have higher quality dinners benefit from better grades, being more likely to report getting mostly A’s or 5’s. They develop healthier habits like preferring nutritious food over junk and preferring activity to relaxing. They are also more likely to say they are respectful, happy, rule followers, confident, independent, hard working, leaders, and outgoing. Three quarters (76%) of parents say having quality family dinners are the most important way they connect as a family. We know that having dinner with our families can make us feel good, but what specifically is driving those good feelings? The data tell us more clearly:
Feelings of Closeness
82% of parents feel closer to their kids and 72% of kids feel closer to their parents when they have dinner together.
78% of parents say they feel closer to their spouse when they have a family dinner.
71% of parents say they feel more appreciated by their children when they take time to have dinner together.
70% of kids, in turn, actually do appreciate their parent(s) more when they take time to share a meal together.
65% of parents report that they and their spouse generally feel less stressed when they eat dinner together as a family.
61% of kids agree that their parents are more relaxed and fun to be around when they have dinner together.
If dinner can foster these kinds of feelings, what benefits can it bring to other aspects of life, particularly for children? Experts have outlined specific assets and skills that are beneficial to children (safety/security, role models, physical health, optimism, coping with stress, empowerment, creativity and empathy), so this research sought to address whether or not family dinners can help in these areas. Children reveal that family dinners do more than other activities they can do in the afternoons, such as sports or clubs, and do more than other activities they can do with family, such as vacations, to help them with these assets and skills with the exception of creativity and empathy. This is a striking finding given that families often give away the dinner hour to accommodate activities like sports, arts and clubs to aid in children’s development, and yet they are giving away a key developmental tool by doing so. Busy schedules threaten to keep us from the dinner table and technology, particularly television, threatens to distract us once we are there. Perhaps more important than these distractions, however, are the barriers that can impede us from having a quality dinner experience. These barriers include being tired, arguing, not liking the meal, being hurried and not everyone being present. Just as families who have more positive dinner characteristics benefit from higher social and emotional well-being, so, too, do families who have fewer barriers to a quality dinner. Turning off technology is an easy way to start eliminating threats at the dinner table. Eliminating barriers might take more time, but knowing that eating a meal that not everyone enjoys or being tired or rushed can take away from the quality of the dinner experience can motivate us to pick a meal everyone likes, relax around the table and rejuvenate ourselves to make the experience better for ourselves and our families. Turning off technology is an easy way to start eliminating threats at the dinner table. Eliminating barriers might take more time, but knowing that eating a meal that not everyone enjoys or being tired or rushed can take away from the quality of the dinner experience can motivate us to pick a meal everyone likes, relax around the table and rejuvenate ourselves to make the experience better for ourselves and our families. This is the most child-focused generation of families that experts have ever seen. Parents want the best for their kids and don’t want to disappoint them. Sixty percent of parents say that some of their own favorite memories from growing up come from family dinners. Perhaps because they know children benefit from sharing dinner with their families, and because they want to give their children the same good memories of family dinners that they themselves have, six out of 10 parents (58%) feel guilty whenever they have to miss a family dinner. A few good high quality dinners can still provide benefits for children, sometimes even more so than more frequent but lower quality dinners can. So, put the guilt aside and make the dinners you do have high quality ones. Start with the low-hanging fruit—turn off the television and ban cell phones and other electronic gear. Add ingredients like laughter and conversation that contribute to a higher quality dinner and try to remove barriers like being rushed from the dinner table. Making small changes over the course of time can add up to big benefits in the long term.’Tags: Barilla