For generations, the family meal has been a sacred ritual in most Filipino households. Every family member either rushes home to be able to make it on time or set aside whatever they are doing and gravitate towards the dinner table. Sadly, as life becomes more and more difficult and demanding to adults and kids alike, that one sacred meal has taken a backseat…together with the morals and values of the young.
To address this pressing concern, the government through Presidential Proclamation 1895, officially declared 4th Monday of every September as National Famealy Day (Araw ng Pagkilala na ang Kainang Pamilya ay Mahalaga). So why the big fuss over dinner? Well, based on the recent study, “The Importance of Frequent Family Meals IV”, conducted by the Columbia University’s Center for Addiction and Abuse, family dinner plays a significant role to teens. 84% of teens prefer to have dinner with their parents. This study also proved that teens who have five to seven dinners per week with their family are more open to talk about what is going on in their lives than those who share less meals with their parents per week. And that teens who have frequent dinners with their parents are less likely to engage in destructive behavior such as smoking, drinking, drug addiction and pre-marital sex. With the things teens are openly exposed to nowadays and with the ease by which they can get access to a whole lot of products in the market without adult or parental knowledge, our direct involvement in our children’s lives can make a big difference. Sharing dinner with them is one venue where we can show that.
On the surface, sharing family dinner with your children may seem ordinary but if you look closely, you are actually imparting a lot more to them than hearty food. Your constant presence at the dinner table will give them that sense of security in knowing that at the end of the day, you are going to be there for them no matter what. It is also a good way to ensure that they get the proper nutrition and balanced diet that they need. It is a good opportunity for you to teach them social skills and manners too through example. Giving your children your time by sharing meals with them will strengthen your bond which can both be your saving grace if the going gets tough in their young life. It will leave positive effects on them which can result to better academic performance and less destructive behavior.
Sharing a meal though is not simply sitting down and eating with your children, them talking freely with you will not just happen also. For dinner with your children to become an effective tool for you to be able to reach out to your child or teen, you have to practice being an active listener. And being an active listener is all about lending an ear when your child shares a simple or delicate story or problem. It is oftentimes biting your tongue to stop yourself from interrupting or giving an impulsive retort, nag or criticism. Sometimes we parents focus more on what our ready reply will be than what our teen or child is saying. It can be that they would want us to just listen without forcing our own piece of unsolicited advice or opinion on them. It is best to leave the drama out of the dinner table, there’s always a perfect time and place for that. Asking questions or clarifying is one way also of making your child know that you are listening. We don’t have to take sides or be compelled to agree on everything he says, the important things is that they have our full attention.
To others, sharing a meal together is a big task. But it is possible with everyone’s commitment. Who wouldn’t want to engage in something where the benefits far outweighs the difficulties. You may not be investing in stocks that would eventually make you filthy rich or putting your money where it can grow in triples when you forego work just to make it to the dinner table on time. You are doing a whole lot more than that. You are forming a character strong enough to withstand all temptations and smart enough to decide what is best for him/her. You are forming child or teen who is well adjusted and secure enough in the love that she has, that she would want nothing but to be her best self. As a parent, that is where our real wealth lies.