We’ve heard for years that children who share regular meals with their families are less likely to engage in risky social behaviors, like drinking and drugging, do better in school and are generally, well, better kids.
Sharing a family meal together provides an opportunity for members of the family to reconnect. Regardless of how unpredictable each person’s day has been, there comes great comfort in knowing that you’ll be sharing a meal and spending time with those who genuinely care about you and how your day went. When families share dinner together, they have an opportunity to talk and share about what is on their minds.
Sharing a family meal boosts self-esteem.
During the stressful years of childhood, knowing that you have something you can count each day fosters feelings of safety, security and self-worth. Knowing that your parents are setting aside time to spend with you communicates a powerful message to a child that says you are important, loved and valued. This is especially true in today’s busy world where we are constantly connected to technology.
Family dinners open the door to complex conversations.
Children who share meals with their families are exposed to conversations they may not otherwise take part in. They learn words, social skills and language words they may not otherwise learn. Children who share conversations over family dinner experience a boost in language development and social skills.
Family dinner provide an opportunity to establish healthy eating habits.
Obesity among children is running ramped. When families eat together there is an opportunity to share healthy meals, appropriately sized portions and positive attitudes about food. Children who eat with their families are more likely to eat fruit, vegetables and whole grains and are less likely to develop eating disorders.
It’s no secret that making regular family dinners take planning and preparation. To give your family a shot at having regular family meals together:
1. Keep the menu simple. Remember the focus isn’t so much on what you are eating, but that you are eating it together.
2. Plan and prepare your meals in advance. Do your grocery shopping on the weekend and know what you’ll be serving up. Do as much prep work as you can the evening before.
3. Get everyone involved. Have younger children set the table and older children clean up. Make family dinner a complete family experience by getting everyone involved.
How often does your family eat dinner together? Why do you think it’s important? What steps do you take to make sure it happens? Share your responses in the comments below.
For more great parenting tips like this, join me, Lesa Day, for the FREE telesummit HeartWise Approaches to Raising Great Kids starting January 3rd, 2012. I will be teaching my class, "Discipline is Not a Dirty Word" on Friday, January 20.
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