Scribit Veritas

Protecting the Child, Preserving the Family, and Honoring Life

Making family meals a priority, and a possibility, again

family-meals

Are family meals worth it?

For as long as I can remember, my family had dinner together.  Whether mom made dinner  or we had take-out, we ate together.  I just assumed it would always be like that.  Then after getting married my husband and I found out it’s a lot harder than it seemed.  At first it was fine, but then it started to feel awkward with just the two of us. Eventually, dinner time moved to the couch accompanied by television.  I have been trying to change this situation. Since our daughter arrived, family dining occurs more often, but it still isn’t routine.  

Family dinners are a good influence on kids.  

The idea of family dining makes sense.  If children are at the dinner table, they are not outside unsupervised on the dark streets.  Teen are less likely to participate in risky behaviors (1) if they have positive communication with their parents.

There are, however, people that think family dinners are a negative influence.   Women’s Studies in Communication asserts that family meals uphold the stereotype of women as caretakers,  They state that this activity encourages mother-blaming, and suppresses maternal voice (2).  Today, many moms have to work away from the home.  However, no alternative is mentioned.  If both parents work, who makes dinner?  The implied alternative to this question is buying meals –  including fast food.   

Additionally a  Dutch study (3) mentions that family meals are often fraught with “rows,” or fights.  Since “fighting with your child is illegal” and “storming out of the room without asking if you can leave the table will get you in trouble…,” (3) family members keep their stress bottled up which can cause harmful elevations in cortisol.

Positive Family meals

These arguments focus on individuals instead of families and they emphasize the negative.  However, there is hope for family dining.

Family meals can help improve communication (4), and lower the risk of becoming overweight (5).  When sitting around the dinner table, keep the dialogue positive and happy to prevent stress.  Instead of relying on one person to make the meal, the family can rally together.  

Preparing food at home, and providing a positive atmosphere will lead to better family meals.

Give family meals a chance to change your home.  The research on both sides suggests that meals in the home can cause big change.  Check out the many Benefits of the Family Table and review our patient information handout on Having A Family Table.  It’s up to you to decide what side of the table your family sits.  


References

1) Yi, S., Poudel, K. C., Yasuoka, J., Palmer, P. H., Yi, S., & Jimba, M. (2010). Role of risk and protective factors in risky sexual behavior among high school students in Cambodia. BMC Public Health, 10(1), 477-484. http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2458/10/477

2) Kinser, A. E. (2017). Fixing Food to Fix Families: Feeding Risk Discourse and the Family Meal. Women’s Studies In Communication, 40(1), 29-47. doi:10.1080/07491409.2016.1207001

3) Newnham, D. (2014). Hard to swallow. Nursing Standard, 28(39), 29.

4) Diamond, A. (2010). Family meals are good for hearts and waistlines. Nursing Standard, 24(24), 28.

5) Part D. Chapter 3: Individual diet and physical activity behavior change: Family shared meals. 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015-scientific-report/08-chapter-3/d3-4.asp

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Encouraging Healthy Body Image in Kids

body-image

Children are amazing at mimicking their parent’s and older sibling’s behaviors. This can be a great thing, if they are seeing positivity and productivity displayed around them. However, when they see negativity, inappropriate behaviors or unrealistic ideals, they will still have tendencies to mimic those behaviors.

It is imperative that parents take on the role as teacher and example. If you don’t, there are others who will.

Common Sense Media conducted a research study in 2015 to better understand the relationship between the media and body image. What they found may seem surprising; but it does, unfortunately, represent many children around us.

  • First, they found that children were aware of what dieting was and may have tried it by the age of 6.
  • Next, 26% of 5-year-old children surveyed said dieting was the appropriate solution for someone who has gained weight.
  • Shockingly enough, they found that by 7 years old, 1 in 4 children have engaged in a dieting practice of some sort.
  • Additionally, they found that child hospitalizations for eating disorders under the age of 12 spiked 112 percent between 1999 and 2006.

Body image may be difficult or even awkward for some parents to openly discuss with their children. But it is so important, and even crucial, that parents discuss and shape their child’s body image so that the media doesn’t. No parent wants to hear their 7-year-old daughter say that she feels fat and overweight, and she needs to go on a diet. It is up to you, as the parent, to let your children know how beautiful and precious their bodies are. Also, they must learn how to take care of their bodies to keep them healthy and strong. Remember that healthy has many different looks, and that is okay.

Parents can help shape their child’s body image by finding and sharing media that promotes positivity, healthy lifestyles, and uplifting environments.

dad-talking-to-son

Do not allow your child to be pulled into the media world that teaches children that ‘real’ men and women look, dress, walk and talk a certain way and that if you are not keeping up, you are inferior. Following are some additional suggestions as to how you, as a parent, can help promote a positive body image for your child.

  • Attempt to avoid the stereotypical female and male characters in the media that your child is exposed to. When you do come across them, talk about them with your child and share your beliefs and values.
  • Dare to challenge beliefs surrounding heavyset and slim characters. Help your kids identify characters that foster positive or negative ideas surrounding weight.
  • Help your children see the differences between actors and celebrities who use their bodies to be healthy and fit or to simply look good for the crowd.

Remember that your beautiful child is growing up in a world that is ever seeking to influence the way children live and what they aspire to be and look like.

Take every precaution to protect your child from unrealistic and harmful ideals so that they can blossom into the wonderful individual they are meant to become.


References:

Tatangelo, G., McCabe, M., Mellor, D., & Mealey, A. (2016). Review article: A systematic review of body dissatisfaction and sociocultural messages related to the body among preschool children. Body Image, 1886-95. doi:10.1016/j.bodyim.2016.06.003

Commonsense Media Research Brief (2015) Children, Teens, Media, and Body Image.  www.commonsensemedia.org/research/children-teens-media-and-body-image

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The Importance of Close Parent-Child Relationships

mom-and-daughter-smiling-at-each-other

How important is the relationship between a parent and a child?

Are there really long term effects for taking time to bond with your child or even neglecting your child?

The answers may seem obvious. Of course the parent-child relationship matters and is critical to a child’s health and well-being. As every  relationship is critical to the overall happiness of the family, a deeper understanding of the importance and effects of these relationships gives parents a greater desire  to bond with their child and a greater understanding of how to go about doing so. 

In a study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family Values, 680 married couples were examined for signs of attachment/detachment behaviors within their relationship.  Research showed that many individuals who had  depression, anxiety and detachment behaviors had previously experienced detached childhood relationships with their parent(s). This history had a high correlation of  depression and frustration between spouses later in life. However, most of those who experienced strong relationships, had experienced closeness as children with their parents.

The study concluded that the parent-child relationship affects attachment security, anxiety and depression in adulthood. No loving parent would desire for their child to face these trials as an adult. Almost all parents would  do anything to prevent their child experiencing depression and anxiety. This is not to say that all anxiety, depression and attachment difficulties are directly related to parental efforts. Rather this study sheds  light on possible ways to help prevent these disorders.

It is crucial that parents create a bond, play with, and have open and close conversation with their child.

In 2008, the Institute for American Values published a study conducted to see if the relationship between father and children made a difference in an adolescent’s life. This particular finding was moving.

Good studies have found that the quality of parenting exhibited by the father as well as the resources fathers bring or don’t bring to their families predict children’s behavior problems, depression, self-esteem, and life-satisfaction. The reach of fathers has been shown to extend to adolescents and young adults, as research shows adolescents function best when their fathers are engaged and involved in their lives.”

Replace the word father with parents and we can still see this finding as truth. Truly, there is no replacement for the relationship between a parent and a child. Parents have the solemn responsibility to care for and nurture their children. This responsibility, if fulfilled, will be beneficial for each child as they grow into adulthood.

Cherish the moments you have with your child. Your child will forever be grateful.


Resources:

Rostad, W. L., & Whitaker, D. J. (2016). The association between reflective functioning and    parent–child relationship quality. Journal Of Child And Family Studies, 25(7), 2164-2177. doi:10.1007/s10826-016-0388-7

Eggebeen, D. (2008).  Do Fathers Matter Uniquely for Adolescent Well-Being? Institute for Marriage and Family Values.  Source: http://www.americanvalues.org/search/item.php?id=11

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