It would be easier and simpler for many parents to forget about family dinners. With everyone’s schedules different, it can sometimes be hard to find the time to sit down as a family. Families now may feel the need to eat on the run with all the activities. But more and more parents realize that sitting down for a family meal (which doesn’t have to be dinner) offers many advantages for both children and their parents.
The truth is, eating meals together as a family could be the perfect parenting hack. It will boost your children’s academic performance, increase their self-esteem, and minimize their risk of substance misuse, depression, teen pregnancy, and obesity if you have a meal together for even just a few minutes to an hour.
Here are a few advantages to eating as a family:
- Bonding and making memories. Mealtime together promotes family bonding and may even improve mental health. Eating together appears to be associated with fewer emotional and behavioral issues and higher feelings of mental well-being. Children may not remember what they ate, but the memories of spending time together without electronic distraction become ingrained.
- Sharing experiences. During shared mealtimes, children and parents share their experiences, observations, ideas, hopes, and dreams. Furthermore, mealtime conversations help children develop their language skills, which improves their reading abilities.
- Learning about each other. Gathering around a table can be a relaxing time for each family member to share their best and worst day experiences.
- Contributing. Meal planning and preparation, as well as cleanup, provide meaningful opportunities for your family to collaborate. When siblings or a child and parent work together to discuss menus, shop, prepare food, and sit down, relationships are strengthened. Everyone’s contribution is essential.
- Establishing routines. Family mealtime routines can provide a sense of security and belonging in the family. Furthermore, children thrive on predictability—knowing when and what will happen.
- Developing healthy eating habits. Home-cooked meals often contain more protein, vitamins, and fiber and less saturated fat, sugar, and sodium than a restaurant or take-out food. When children are exposed to a variety of healthful meals at a young age, they learn to eat a variety of them. Families have differing views on encouraging children to eat nutritious foods. Still, they all agree that they must be offered and enjoyed by other family members.
Sharing meals with your family has numerous advantages for both children and adults. According to one study, frequent family meals are associated with improved family functioning, stronger relationships, and improved social and emotional health in parents! And with all these benefits of eating together as a family, it is a must that a routine is established. Here are some helpful tips to help you get into a good routine:
- Begin by setting aside one meal each week to sit down as a family and gradually increase this over time.
- Get the kids engaged and make it pleasant for them to help with dinner preparation to look forward to eating a meal they helped prepare. This also provides children with essential life skills for the future.
- When planning a family lunch, put it on your calendar like any other occasion so that everyone in the family is aware of it.
- Turn off all distractions such as the TV, iPads, phones, and computers at mealtimes.
- Maintain a pleasant attitude at mealtimes to encourage children to chat about their day.
Don’t worry; we know your family is busy with sports, after-school activities, and different work schedules. It might seem impossible to coordinate everyone’s schedules every night. Remember that It’s not about perfection – your family will benefit from family meals with just 3 to 5 meals per week! Make it count and make your family mealtime an enjoyable time!