A third of families sit in silence during meal times, according to a new poll, which also found that four in 10 parents eat their evening meal at a different time to their children.

One in 10 of the 2,000 people polled said they never had dinner together, with only a fifth regularly sitting down with family members. 

Even when families are finally able to sit together their mealtimes are dominated by a series of distractions.

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One in five admitted they preferred to watch television rather than interact with their family and 44 per cent of families said they would stare at mobile phones while they eat.

For the third who said they regularly had conversations over dinner, weekend plans were among the most popular topics of conversation, at 47 per cent, along with school affairs, at 44 per cent, and the food itself, at 43 per cent.

Homework and TV shows were also commonly held discussions at the dinner table, found among 37 per cent in the poll which was commissioned by Mexican food brand Old El Paso.

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. And children need to be part of this as it’s a vital part of developing their social skills.

“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 wellbeing, a time for everyone to unload."

SWNS

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