In speaking with families with whom I’ve worked, I can say that I’ve almost heard it all. One very prominent sports figure’s son came right out and said that every night, each member of the family eats something different for dinner and after what they are having is served, he, his sister, and each of the parents collect their plates and trail off into their individual rooms to eat dinner while watching their own programs on their own televisions. His mother was mortified and countered that he wasn’t “supposed to tell people that!” Kids. What are you going to do?
I think everyone is guilty of wanting a little “down time” after busy days, and eating a meal while watching the television might have replaced baseball as the great American pastime. But apparently, this isn’t uniquely American. A survey funded in Europe by Birds Eye came up with some very startling similarities: in the UK, the survey also found that only one in five British youngsters eat at a table, compared to 7 per cent in France, 42 per cent in Germany, 61 per cent in Italy and 40 per cent in Spain. For 78 per cent of the British youngsters polled, a TV dinner is the norm, with meals taken in front of their favorite shows – this is compared to 61 per cent in France, 62 per cent in Germany and 68 per cent in Italy.
As quoted on the website parentdish.co.uk, childcare and parenting expert Professor Tanya Byron said the breakdown of family mealtimes could be damaging to families. “By eating together, focusing on each other and learning to enjoy each other’s company, families gain a variety of benefits, including improved communication and trust – and of course, the ability to have some fun over a delicious meal. We need to lose the dash-and-eat mentality and get better at table talk.”
Break the trend. Teach your kids how to set the table, help prepare the meal, and yes, do the dishes. These are life skills that can help your family in the short run, and be of real benefit to your kids later on in their lives! Who knows, maybe the dining table can make a comeback. Crossing my fingers…