A new survey has revealed that sitting together for an evening meal is slowly becoming a tradition of the past with 78 per cent of us admitting that we don’t sit down with our family to eat. Unlike countries such as Italy, where they take twice as long, in the UK we spend on average just 10 minutes eating our evening meal which psychologists say could be having a detrimental effect on family life.
So should families make more time to eat together? How important is it to sit down to eat with your children? Do you think this trend leads to other problems such as children no longer having table manners or do you think the change is inevitable with more families having two working parents? We wanted to find out if parents agreed with the survey results and were feeling afraid about the death of the family dining table…
Mum Fiona Halpin says: ‘We eat together at the dinner table every evening and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s a chance for us all to talk about our day and for the kids to talk about school. I always have the news on while cooking dinner but the minute we sit down the TV gets turned off. No gadgets are allowed at the table either. I feel that both our girls value this distraction-free time with us. It’s important for us not to lose these traditions as I think it gives children a sense of belonging and value.’
Parent Roisin Goldridge agrees, ‘Eating together as a family is so important for lots of reasons. The kids eat what we eat for the most part and it encourages them to try new things when we’re having something more exotic. Sometimes the chat is about their day, their friends or something they’d really love to do. It’s a chance for all of us to put the technology on hold too so games talk is off limits – as is work talk for the grown-ups! We see it as an important time for the family and important for the kids from a food, bonding and social point of view. We do have TV dinners sometimes too but that’s part of the fun!’
Dad Max Donohoe also agrees that eating together as a family is important. He commented: ‘We love to sit down to dinner pretty much every day, and for a leisurely breakfast at the weekend. We try to avoid combat with the little person in our house (age 3) over food by including her in the meal choices and letting her help prepare dinner and set the table. She’s more likely to try things she’s helped make. We try to not constrain her at the table for too long as it’s unfair to expect them to sit still for that whole duration. She frequently wanders back to the table to join us again and finish up her plate.’ Mum Diane Close responded, ‘My family eat all our meals at the dinner table. Can’t imagine my house if kids were allowed to eat elsewhere.’ And Kathy Mc Erlain told us, ‘Me, my husband and our four kids sit down at the table for dinner every day. Sometimes on a Saturday when Daddy isn’t there they do miss him and reckon we shouldn’t have dinner until he comes home!’
Roisin Morrow’s view is: ‘I never really ate at the dinner table until I had kids. It’s great being able to talk and connect with them and enjoy food together. It makes meal times more fun. Just getting to sit still for five minutes nowadays is a challenge with kids.’ While Claire McCabe said that she also insisted her family come together for a meal at the end of the day, although she acknowledged, ‘I think it’s very hard in this day and age to keep the tradition as so many families are working different hours and the kids are away at after-school activities, but for now it stays in our home!’
The majority of parents with whom we spoke agreed that is was an important part of the family day and they had no intention of getting rid of their dining table any time soon!
Those who didn’t eat together, such as mum Alisha McFadden, thought that it was regretful, blaming a busy working life for the change. Her final word was, ‘It is sad as I remember always sitting at the table with my parents as a child. If this is a true reflection of modern family life then I think all of us do need to make more effort to have dinner at the table together.’
*The table lifetime has been calculated as 10.18 years, this has been created form an average of people polled. Research commissioned by pasta brand Giovanni Rana from a poll of 2,000 people.
S4k’s view In an ideal world we would all love to be able to sit down with our children for an evening meal every day, but with more parents working shifts, or both parents working, it’s just not always possible. If you can, fabulous, but if not, the important thing is to make the effort when you can, as often as you can as it’s a great opportunity to have a proper conversation and spend quality time together.
Don’t forget! Every issue we choose one of our Parents’ Opinion comments to win a £10 gift card for M&S – so head to facebook.com/scotland4kids and get involved in the debate!