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  • Shared Family Meals Can Strengthen Your Relationships

    Shared Family Meals Can Strengthen Your Relationships

    School drop off, pick up, dance recitals, piano lessons, soccer games, math tutors, swim lessons, girl scouts, little league, PTA meetings, day jobs, second job, friends, family, and the list goes on, and on, and on…. Where do any of us have the time to squeeze in a quick trip to the grocery store, let alone cook dinner, let alone ENJOY cooking dinner. Gulp.

    Life is busy. Seems like life only gets even busier with each passing year. The more we have to make life easier, the more complicated it gets. IPhones, ipads, laptops, apps, calendars. We live in a world that has so many luxuries, yet the simple things sometimes fall by the wayside.

    Dinner is one of the lost arts

    When I was a young kid, my family ate dinner together almost every single night. Sometimes my Dad would work late and it was just my Mom, sister and I eating together. There was still a place set at the table for my Dad and he would eat when he got home. His two little girls would be happy to keep him company and pick off his plate, which always seem to taste better when eaten from Dad’s dinner plate. Some of our best conversations happened at the dinner table. I still make fun of my older sister who always was waiting at the ready to talk about her day. I would joke that she would ask “can I tell you about my day in detail?” and she wouldn’t spare a single detail no matter how insignificant it seemed at the time. Now, as an adult and a mental health professional, I have come to appreciate those meals and those details. My family shares a closeness, that I believe, stems from our shared family meals. We learned to open up, to ask for help, to share in our struggles and share in our achievements. My parents were our equals at the table. The happenings of their day were just as important as ours. We learned to listen to them; we learned from them, and them from us.

    Sit and have dinner together

    This is something that I try very hard to carry on in my own family. Now, married with two young children of my own, plus careers, friends, and a whole list of other obligations, the ability to all come together at the end of the day seems like a bigger challenge.

    I know how important this challenge is though. As I wrote my master’s thesis 15 years ago and I started my research about culinary art therapy and the Family Meal, I began to understand the significance of this simple family tradition.

    Many companies are trying to encourage family meal

    It is no accident that companies like Barilla , Stouffer’s, Smucker’s and so many others have tried to market their products based on the values of the Family Meal.

    CASA started Family Day back in 2001 to help keep America’s kids “substance free.” The research began to link many connections and impact the family meal had on issues like substance abuse, depression and anxiety, eating disorders, teen pregnancy and self-esteem.

    Harvard University Graduate School of Education’s Project Zero started The Family Dinner Project in hopes of educating families about the benefit of the Family Meal.

    If someone told you that your kids would get higher grades, feel good about themselves, be healthier, well adjusted, not do drugs, and not develop an eating disorder and all you had to do was this one simple little thing, would you be ready to sign off on the dotted line? That one little thing is….share a meal with them.

    To that, I say, pass the carrots and mashed potatoes, please.

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    Julie Ohana, LMSW and culinary art therapist has a private practice in West Bloomfield, Michigan.She received her B.A in Counseling from SUNY Empire State College in 2001, and earned her M.S.W from Yeshiva University’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work in New York City in 2004.
    Julie has worked with a wide-ranging population. She has worked in the fields of inpatient substance abuse treatment, as well as outpatient mental health treatment. Julie has many years of experience working with adolescents and their parents. Julie has a strong passion and firmly believes in the power of the Family Meal.
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