If you wish to instill family cohesion, encourage siblings to get along or get your kids to talk to you more, one excellent way to do this is through family dinners. Of course it’s not always easy to coordinate busy schedules, work and after-school activities, but just two or three nights a week is all you need to change the dynamics of your family.
Why it’s a good idea
Studies support the theory that families who eat together enjoy a happier life and better relationships. Students who ate family meals had higher academic scores and fewer behavioral problems. 19% of teens whose families did not share meals reported feeling alienated from their families compared to the 7% of teens who did enjoy family meals.
Students who ate more meals at home suffered less from obesity and the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at the University of Columbia discovered that students who eat with their families are less likely to drink, smoke or use drugs.
Best practices for family meals
Meals at home with the family can be beneficial, but you must follow some best practices in order to achieve success. Start with a ban on electronics at the table. This means the dinner hour is a tech-free one (that goes for parents too!)
Schedule your dinners and give them as much status and importance as studies, afterschool activities and work engagements. Aim for three meals a week and these can include weekend breakfasts and lunches. Every family can set aside three hours a week to share together no matter how busy you are.
Make it fun! Be inclusive so that your kids look forward to these experiences by allowing them to choose what they want to eat for family dinners and allowing them to help with cooking, music selection and table settings.
Family meals should be a fun, positive experience, so don’t use this time to criticise, fight, argue or talk about issues. If you have an issue to discuss, wait until after your meal. Mealtimes should be positive family experiences or you will create a very negative atmosphere that makes meals unbearable.
Add to the positive experience by having themed dinners, including desserts, telling jokes and sharing all your funny stories from the day at work or school.
It can be really tough to find the time to enjoy a meal together when family members have such busy schedules. However, taking just a couple of hours out of your week can really help to foster positive relationships between family members and keep communication channels open. Make meals a fun and positive event that your family looks forward to sharing. Family meals can be really great places to make memories and share stories of your life.