A THIRD of families sit in silence during meal times, according to a study. Three in 10 admit they struggle to find enough to talk about over dinner while four in 10 parents eat their evening meal at a completely different time to their kids One in 10 NEVER have dinner at the same time as the rest of their family, with just a fifth getting to sit down together every night of the week The study was commissioned by Old El Paso to launch National Fajita Friday (September 20 2019) to urge more families to eat together Psychologist, Dr Linda Papadopoulos, said: “To get the most out of family mealtimes, the table needs to be filled with the happy noise of conversation, chat and laughter “The more we engage, the closer and more connected we feel to each other. KIDS ‘NEED FAMILY TIME’ “And children need to be part of this as it’s a vital part of developing their social skills “There is something truly wonderful about the happy sounds produced by a vibrant family meal ” The study also found that even when families are finally able to sit together their mealtimes are dominated by a series of distractions More than one in five admit they prefer to watch television rather than interact with their family And 44 per cent of families will stare at mobile phones while they eat. But for the third of families who regularly have conversations over dinner, weekend plans are among the most popular topics of conversation (47 per cent), along with school gossip (44 per cent) and the meal itself (43 per cent) Homework and TV shows (both 37 per cent) are also commonly held discussions at the dinner table Dr Papadopoulos added: “At the end of a long day, it can be hard to muster the energy for conversation, but we mustn’t underestimate the importance it plays at mealtime FAMILIES ‘GLUED TO PHONES’ “There is evidence showing that stimulating conversation at mealtimes builds children’s confidence and self-esteem and in turn actually boost academic performance “In fact, they are beneficial to the whole families mental well-being, a time for everyone to unload “So it’s a good idea to try and make them part of your weekly routine.” The two-part study, which polled 2,500 parents in total, also found ‘multi-plate meals’, such as Mexican food, ‘improve’ conversation and create a ‘positive’ atmosphere – when compared to everyday ‘one-plate’ meals Lionel Morgado, of Old El Paso, said: “There is clear evidence showing the benefits of vibrant family mealtimes which is why we are launching National Fajita Friday to encourage families to commit to spending regular dinner times together “When the family sits together over Mexican it creates happy noise and genuine connections It is a cuisine that naturally brings people together. “Everyone has to roll up their sleeves, dive in with their hands and pass the guac around – it fills your heart as well as your belly!” *To celebrate the first annual National Fajita Friday on September 20 2019, Old El Paso is opening a pop-up restaurant for one night to bring families together A complimentary three-course meal will be on offer at the restaurant from 7pm at 4 Brushfield Street, London, E1 6AN – on a first come, first serve basis We pay for your stories! Do you have a story for The Sun Online news team? Email us at [email protected] co.uk or call 0207 782 4368. You can WhatsApp us on 07810 791 502. We pay for videos too Click here to upload yours.