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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

FaMEALy: What it’s all about

By Dominic I. Sanchez

ZAMBOANGA CITY – September 21 to 28 is celebrated as Family Week. Part of the advocacy of government and non-government organizations is the “FaMealy”, which, in essence, underscores the importance of every member of a family to partake meals together, as often as possible.

True enough, many families these days tend to overlook the importance of a meaningful family mealtime, particularly due to the hectic schedules that each member is constrained in. Fathers and mothers tend to come home late because of the taxing work; others would have to remain abroad and away from their children leaving other people to tend to the children. On the other hand, children in school would have extracurricular activities – engaging in sports, debate contests, theatre and others – that would have to eventually sacrifice a family dinner.

Realities in families

Aileen Espiritusanto of San Jose Gusu is a nurse and a mother of 2 children. She shared that her current graveyard shift would make it impossible to have dinner with her family. Her husband works in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates as an engineer. “It is a good thing that my mother, their lola is around. But on my days off, ta pikura gad yo man bonding kame kay teenager ya el uno,” (I make it a point to bond with my children on my days off, they are now teenagers) shares Aileen.

Aileen’s situation is not unlike many other families’.

Irene, a social worker from barangay Sta. Maria and a solo parent says she barely recognizes her 16-year-old son now. “The yaya says he goes home at 10 or 11 every night, and he says that there is always basketball practice, but his attitude has really changed,” shares Irene. She adds that the boy rarely speaks to her anymore, and locks himself up in his room whenever he is home. Irene is assigned in one of the municipalities in Zamboanga Sibugay province and only gets to come home every weekend – sometimes not at all.

“Wala akong choice, kailangang maghanap-buhay,” (I don’t have a choice, I have to work) she said. Irene makes it a point to have a family bonding with her boy whenever she’s around. “I make up for it by taking him to the movies, going to dinner, inviting his friends over our home and I would prepare snacks for them. I just feel that I need to make double my efforts, I want to be part of my child’s growing up.”

Consequences of no “faMEALy” time

Parents need to be part of the growing up process of their children, especially when they reach adolescence, when the kids may join peer groups that have a negative influence on them. Studies have shown that there is really no substitute to a meaningful family mealtime. Having less and less of it can lead to unwanted consequences.

One such study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University revealed that teenagers who rarely eat together with their families particularly in dinner are more prone to use illegal drugs, and pick up vices such as smoking and drinking.

Cases of drug abuse among teens are common in Zamboanga City. According to Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) regional operations chief Marvin Santos, teenage drug users are not uncommon. “There are many times, during our operations that we apprehend teenagers for drugs.”

City Police Director Sr. Supt. Angelito Casimiro had earlier related a case where the parents of a teenager were in fear of their lives because of their child’s erratic behavior due to drugs.

Drug abuse is only one of the problems that can arise due to less or no family interaction, especially among teenagers, the Columbia study emphasized.

Benefits of the ‘faMEALy’

Another study by the University of Michigan showed that children’s characters build up more through family interaction and consistent family mealtime, than in time the kids spend studying, or even in Church.

Aside from social and emotional benefits, eating together brings about good health habits. Said a study by the University of Minnesota, published in The Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine in August 2004, “frequent family meals are related to better nutritional intake, and a decreased risk for unhealthy weight control practices and substance abuse”.

These studies together emphasize one thing, summed up by the words of Ron Afable in “Eating together brings back everyone to the true essence of what a family is: sharing, communicating, fun and belonging – on a daily basis”.

The Philippine Information Agency (PIA) in Zamboanga City is joining other government agencies, civil society groups and non-government organizations in advocating for more family meal time. #famealypamore