How much time do you spend at the dinner table with your kids every week? Not much? You may want to reconsider your current habits, because a recent study clearly suggests that the quantity and quality of the time you spend with your children during mealtimes can have a substantial effect on their overall health. These formative years are often some of the most important in their physical development, so ensuring a healthy lifestyle from an early date is very important. In fact, your child's life may depend on it!
The researchers involved in the study thoroughly assessed 200 mealtimes and assessed their measurable effects on the health of children aged between 5 and 12 years. Unfortunately, these children were suffering from persistent asthmatic symptoms on a regular basis, requiring them to maintain a fairly regular schedule and avoid various types of harmful allergens (substances that can unexpectedly trigger a serious asthma attack). This consistancy apparently transported over into mealtime activities as well.
The authors noted that on average, 70% of the children and adolescents participating in the study share their meal with an adult three or more times in a given week. Although the total interactions time during these meals only averaged about 18 minutes in length, it did have quite a significant effect on the health of the child. This suggests that even small amounts of time spent with your child a few times a week can make quite a difference.
It was noted that quality time spent during meals with the affected child (quality time meaning being engaged with each other and discussing daily events while eating food) was associated with the decreased severity of harmful asthma symptoms. On the contrary, in families that were busy over the phone or watching television while having their food, the severity of asthma symptoms was markedly higher.
The authors of the study suggested that showing a positive interest in the child's activities at home or at school had a constructive effect on the child's mind and his / her health. Mealtimes provide an excellent setting in which to communicate with your child and ensure his or her positive growth and development in life. This can also carry over into later years.
So the next time you sit down to eat with your child, make sure that the television or any other electronic device that may affect conversations are off and have a quality mealtime together!