Don't mix TV and meals is advice from ParentLink
April 09, 2004
"We receive calls from parents and professionals, some who are not looking for specific information but who want help problem solving or need a supportive conversation," said Sandi Lillard, coordinator of parent services for ParentLink, a program that exists to provide information to help Missouri's parents provide safe, healthy and nurturing environments for their children.

Questions about food likes and dislikes, toilet training, language development, sharing, biting and jealousy are of interest to parents of toddlers. Parents of elementary ages ask about bedtime and sleeping, how to know when a child is old enough to stay home alone and how to help children understand money. ParentLink has answers for parents and others who work with teens and can help parents determine how to stay a part of the teen's life even when the teen tests the parents' limits.

The professionals who staff ParentLink handle up to 3,000 calls annually and administer the phone service through the University Outreach and Extension's 4-H youth development programs.

Call ParentLink, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., at 1-800-552-8522. A caller requesting information after hours can leave his or her name, phone number and address and a brief message. Someone from the ParentLink staff will return the call the following day or mail the appropriate information packet. Information also is available online.

Television and Meals Don't Mix Well For Children

Although eating an occasional meal while watching television can be a fun treat for the family, too much mixing of television and mealtime can be a problem. A recent survey showed that overweight children reported eating nearly 50 percent more dinners while watching television than their normal-weight peers.

"Family mealtime is extremely important for children from both a nutritional and a developmental standpoint," said Kim Allen, 4-H youth development specialist from Springfield.

"We also know that people who watch television while eating tend to tune out their natural hunger cues which encourages overeating. Increased television watching also increases the influence TV programming has on children's food preferences. Studies show that children tend to request the foods most frequently advertised on television. Unfortunately, these foods tend to be low in nutritional value," said Allen.

Research also shows that children whose families keep the television off during mealtimes tend to consume more fruits and vegetables, less saturated fat and more of several key nutrients.

"Positive family mealtime conversations help build children's self-esteem and foster trusting relationships. This helps families build the skills needed to work through tough issues together. Positive family mealtimes are necessary for teens as well as younger children," said Allen.

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