Saturday, August 29, 2009



As family members struggle to manage increasingly heavy workloads and result to eating meals in front of television, the tradition of familydinners as a time for conversation and sharing is weakening. Research published Friday found that 98 percent of respondents believe that family mealtime is a good way to build positive relationships among familymembers. Most respondents also believe that mealtime is an important tradition that helps a family's mental condition. The tradition can also encourage healthy eating habits, form good work ethics, and increasehappiness.

Yet 77 percent of respondents eat their meals in front of televisions and 63 percent said they were too busy to have a family meal at all."Indonesian people are actually very familiar with family mealtime. They understand that the tradition has long become the medium for members toshare their thoughts and feelings," said Erna Karim, a sociologist from theUniversity of Indonesia. "The tradition also provides a chance for parentsto instill moral and family values in their children." The research funded by Unilever polled 500 respondents in 2008.

Rose Mini, a psychologist from the University of Indonesia, saidIndonesians believe the family who eats together, stays together. "Howeverfamily members must be willing to give time for this tradition," she said."They must be willing to turn off the TV, video games and mobile phones andstay in the house to interact with each other."

Rose said that family members, while eating together, should empathize and listen to each other. "I don't think eating with your family while watching television together is a good idea. They will tend to focus more on seeing the television screen rather than looking at each other," she said. Rose maintained that spending mealtime together is a good way to prevent manysocial problems.

"Children who spent mealtime with their parents tend tohave less negative attitudes since the children believe in good family values," she said. "Couples who spend mealtime together were also more unlikely to divorce."

Erna added that the Javanese proverb that "love grows as a couple feelscomfortable with each other," supports to idea of sharing meals. Both Ernaand Rose said that mothers could again build this tradition. They can bethe ones who urge other family members to spend meal time together.

"Fathers can also do this, but mothers traditionally arrange mealtime,"Rose said. "In the end, it's more about who is willing to take do the job."She suggested that parents busy with their jobs at least sit together withtheir families for weekend meals. "I believe that when family members beginto understand the importance of family mealtime, they will try to find timeto continue the tradition," Rose said. "If the family decides to eat out,it is better to find a quiet establishment so that family members can talkto each other conveniently."

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