This week is the 30th National Family Week: September 26 to October 2, 2022.
In 1992, one of our most loved presidents, Fidel V. Ramos, signed into law Proclamation No. 60 declaring that the last week of September each year as Family Week. He followed this up with Proclamation No. 847 declaring the fourth Sunday of September each year as Family Thanksgiving. This is to recognize the importance of family, the basic unit of society. He envisioned various authorities in the country encouraging citizens to use the week as a time to foster stronger familial relationships and reconnect with loved ones.
I remember in 2019 when classes and work in government offices were shortened on the first day of the National Family Week in order to encourage families to spend mealtime with their family members. This year, the start of the Family Week happens to be no classes and no trading day due to super typhoon Karding.
The importance of Family Meals
The family meal is a very important tradition that has several benefits to its members. A noodle soup company even came up with an ad using “FaMealy” to remind us how important this is.
Numerous studies show that children who have regular family meals have wider vocabulary, perform better in school, are less likely to be obese, depressed, use drugs, smoke, and engage in risky behaviors.
Among the numerous studies that show the benefits of family meals are:
1. Are there nutritional and other benefits associated with family meals among at-risk youth? – by Fulkerson J.A., Kubik M.Y., Story, M., Lytle L., Arcan C., 2009
The study found out that children who have more regular family meals are less likely to be overweight.
2. Family meal patterns: associations with sociodemographic characteristics and improved dietary intake among adolescents. – by Neumark-Szatainer D., Hannan P.J., Story M., Croll J., Perry C., 2003
Family meals play an important role in promoting positive dietary intake among adolescents.
3. Family dinner and adolescent overweight – Taveras E.M., Rifas-Shiman S.L., Berkey C.S., Rockett H.R., Field A.E., Frazier A.L., Colditz G.A., Gillman M.W., 2005
The frequency of eating family dinner is inversely associated with overweight prevalence.
4. Systematic review of the effects of family meal frequency on psychosocial outcomes in youth – Harrison, M.E. et al., 2015
Frequent family meals are associated with better psychosocial outcomes for children and adolescents.
(Links to the above studies are provided at the end of the article)
One of the blessings in disguise during the pandemic and the lockdowns that ensued is our ability to share more family meals together. Personally, I found myself gaining weight during this time because this mother is always so happy having meals with the complete Fres Fausto cast!
As we go back to normal activities of going out – back to school campuses for the students and offices for workers, the challenges of having family meals together are bound to come back. Here are the top challenges of having family meals together on a regular basis.
1. Traffic. We are so back to pre-pandemic heavy traffic situation. Commute is back to being a nightmare in the metro. Because of this, some opt to have half-way houses, and this is not just among employees but even among our young students.
2. Prevalence of OFWs. The Philippine Statistics Authority records show around 2 million overseas Filipino workers. This means that a significant percentage of Filipino families has at least one member away from home, making it impossible to have regular family meals. What more, the proportion of female OFWs at over 50% may also mean that more mothers, who are usually tasked to prepare meals, are leaving their families to work away from home. I remember top child psychologist Dr. Honey Carandang saying, “We were still fine when the fathers left to work abroad, the bigger problems came when mothers of young children started working abroad away from their families.”
3. Increase in the incidence of broken families. When the father and mother decide to separate, having family meals with all family members present can just happen upon special requests – on birthdays and other special occasions, if they even happen at all.
I am thankful that we were able to raise our three sons in the tradition of shared family meals. My husband, Marvin, learned to master the art of predicting ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival) long before Waze was invented, so that he could join family dinners. He didn’t want to miss the stories of highs and lows, failures and triumphs, corny jokes, and everything in between including money talks, shared at the dinner table. Everyone knew that during these family meals, you could express your feelings, not be judged, but would still hear honest opinions.
Family meals were definitely a huge part of how we built our family. They make up the essential ingredients in forging the close relationship that we now have. As I end this article, I get a bit sentimental to realize that come next month, we will not be having our frequent family meals together anymore. Marvin and I will be moving back to our home (after a prolonged renovation) while the boys will be staying here to be on their own. One of them is also getting married next month and will be living in a separate home with his wife.
This reminds me, we should start to be more deliberate in still having those meals together – not that frequent but still regular.
How about you? What are your creative ways of having family meals on a regular basis? I’d love to hear and learn from you.
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This article is also published in FQMom.com
Here are the links of the studies mentioned in the article:
IMAGE ATTRIBUTIONS: Asian Parent, Freepik, Shutterstock, Philstar, Panay News