Over the last 50 years, our daily lives have progressively become inundated with technology to such an extent that, for many people, it has now become unusual to have a face-to-face conversation without glancing at a technological device. Instead of going to visit family and friends nearby, we make telephone calls. Rather than sitting around the dinner table having family discussions, we sit around the television. Instead of having face-to-face conversations with friends and family, we now turn to the internet using Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Viber and the like to “keep in touch” with family and friends.
While these technological advances were developed to bring people closer together, research is now showing that, in many instances, the very technologies that were meant to advance our societies have in fact been detrimental to the foundational building block of all human civilizations: the family unit.
Dave Ursillo in his article, The Family Unit, defines the term as, “the originating source for how one interacts with others and heavily influences how one will behave in future friendships and relationships. Members of a family whose interrelationships thrive will be more inclined to excel in friendships and relationships outside of the family unit.”
Dr. Anne Fishel of Harvard Medical School says the family meal is, “The most important thing you can do with your kids.” She praises the physical, spiritual, social, and psychological benefits of eating dinner as a family, but goes on to say that, “It isn’t just the presence of healthy foods that leads to all these benefits. The dinner atmosphere is also important. Parents need to be warm and engaged, rather than controlling and restrictive, to encourage healthy eating in their children.”
Dr. Fishel goes on to report that, “In one study, American kindergartners who watched TV during dinner were more likely to be overweight by the time they were in third grade.”
So, it isn’t only what you eat, or whom you eat it with – it’s about eating together as an active and engaged family unit, with no outside distractions. It is about truly being with one another. In this way, the family unit is more likely to stay physically, spiritually, socially and psychologically healthy – together.
Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, once said, “Let food be thy medicine, and let medicine be thy food.” Perhaps a slight modification is in order: Let family dinners be thy medicine, and let medicine be thy family dinners.
Look forward to the Back to Basics Series, as we share our love of family and community development.