Experts agree that the family dinner is pivotal in the creation of a cohesive family unit. Eating a meal together is a great way to solidify relationships and share the events of the day. Of course it’s really difficult to find the time to sit down together as a family when you all have very busy schedules, but the rewards are well worth the effort.
Benefits of family meals
- 19% of teens who do not share at least three family meals together a week report stressed relationships between family members compared to 7% who do enjoy family meals.
- More meals at home results in higher performance scores and fewer behavioral problems.
- Students who enjoy family meals are more informed about good eating habits and are less likely to suffer from obesity.
- The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at the University of Columbia found that students who eat meals with their families are less likely to drink, smoke or use drugs.
- Eating at home reduces costs. Ordering take out is not only bad for your health; it’s also bad for your bank balance. Eating in helps save money and teaches your students about eating healthy foods.
- Eating meals with family is good for you too! It relieves stress and helps to keep the channels of communication open.
Rules of engagement
- Getting the family together can be very difficult. With parents working late and with student’s after-school activities, sharing a meal together during the week can be tough. Aim for at least three meals together every week. Make family meals as important as soccer practice or studying.
- Discuss the benefits of family meals with your students so that they understand why it’s important.
- Allow students to participate in order to make it more fun. They can take turns choosing what they want for dinner or help with the cooking.
- Cellphones, tablets and TV have no place at the dinner table; the idea is to interact with each other and these are distractions.
- Avoid criticism or fighting at the dinner table. Meals should be enjoyed in a positive atmosphere. If you hear something you disagree with at dinner, try to reserve comment until the meal is done and you can address the issue in private. Students won’t want to participate in meals if they are a negative experience.
- You can make family meals fun by having dessert on nights when you eat together.
- You can create a fun atmosphere by making it a candlelight dinner, having breakfast for dinner or transforming your kitchen into a restaurant where your students are the restaurant staff.
The family meal is all too often put on the backburner as busy lives and schedules take precedence. However, the benefits of sharing a meal with your family a couple of days a week make it an essential part of family life.