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Resources
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Family Meals

This week Guy’s & St Thomas’s Charity and the Bite Back 2030 Healthy Eating Charity released the findings of their recent research into the impact of lockdown on family meals.

They surveyed one thousand 14-19 year olds who reported a rise in the number of families cooking and eating together.  Sixty percent of them think this has had a positive impact on their mental health and wellbeing and want it to continue when lockdown ends.

Hurray a positive news story at last!  

Working in therapy with teenagers, loneliness is a theme which often crops up, but up until a few years ago, they would usually be talking about feeling lonely at school.  Now, more and more report feeling lonely at home and this seems to cause them more distress than feeling lonely at school.

Family life has got busier, parents work harder, convenience food is, well, more convenient, watching TV whilst eating is considered normal and people forage and snack on the run rather than sitting and eating.  The family meal has become the casualty of modern life and it is a real shame.

Numerous studies have shown that preparing food and eating together as a family has a positive impact on both mental and physical health.  It…

  • helps us handle the stresses of our daily lives
  • promotes sensible eating habits which help with weight control
  • helps families work together as a team which builds family ties
  • builds self esteem as children & teenagers feel valued when we want to spend time talking to them
  • builds self confidence as they become more proficient in the kitchen
  • reduces the prevalence of teenage drug use

Here are a few tips for successful mealtimes:-

  • Divide the labour by getting them involved in all aspects of preparation, serving and clearing.
  • Don’t discuss things which would embarrass or humiliate them.
  • No taboo topics.  This is a great time to have frank discussions about things like drugs and alcohol but keep them general and seek their opinion. 
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff.  If their table manners are not ideal ask yourself if they would behave in the same way in someone else’s house.  If the answer is yes, you need to change a few habits.  If the answer is no, focus on interesting conversation instead.
  • Make sure everyone gets a chance to talk.  If you notice that one family member is getting left out or is unable to make themselves heard above the crowd, pass a spoon around and whoever is holding it gets to talk.  No-one else can interrupt.

Have I managed to convince you that eating together as a family is beneficial on many levels?  I do hope so, and if you are one of the families who has taken it up during lockdown perhaps this will persuade you to keep going long after it ends.

Bon appetit! Alicia

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