Eat dinner as a family.

With our busy schedules – after-school activities, long commutes, work schedules – it can be tough for a family to sit down and enjoy a meal together. But spending this time together as a family can be one of the most important things you do for your family.

Eating together has been shown to have great benefits for you and your children:

(The Importance of Family Dinners, The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University)

  1. Families who eat together develop strong parent child bonds. Children are likely to talk and share things with their parents during dinner.
  2. Teens who regularly have meals together are less likely to get into fights or be promiscuous.
  3. Teens who regularly eat dinner as a family are less likely to take drugs, drink alcohol or smoke tobacco.
  4. Children with families that eat together do better academically.
  5. Families that eat together generally eat more nutritiously, and children are less likely to be overweight.
  6. Children that are involved by setting the table and clearing the dishes learn important skills.
  7. Eating dinner together teaches kids manners: saying please and thank you, sitting still, chewing with their mouths closed, taking a small enough bite of their food that it doesn’t end up smeared all over their face.
  8. Kids associate having family meals together as having a more stable home environment.
  9. Having family meals together can save money.
  10. They grow up so fast, it’s time to make memories.

Here are some great tips on how to get the family together for dinner:

(WebMD)

Eating dinner as a family helps us thrive in all areas: family, community, health, environment and our economy.

  • Keep it simple. Family meals don’t have to be elaborate. Work salads and vegetables into meals. Focus on familiar favorites, like chili or frittatas.
  • Be prepared. Keep ingredients for healthful meals on hand, including plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Keep healthy ‘appetizers’ on hand. Stock the kitchen with fresh fruits, nuts and low-fat cheese — stuff the kids can snack on after school, instead of chips.
  • Get the family involved. Let kids help prepare meals and set the table.
  • Use the crock pot. Put everything together before leaving for work in the morning. You’ll come home to the delicious smell of a cooked meal.
  • Avoid portion distortion. Keep serving sizes under control, whether you’re at home or eating out.
  • Make it enjoyable. Leave the serious discussions for another time. Family meals are for nourishment, comfort and support.
  • Keep the TV and computers off and enjoy each other’s company.
  • Use this time as a great chance to talk with your kids and find out what is going on in their lives. Here is a list of potential conversation starters (from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University):
    • What’s the best and worst thing that happened today?
    • What’s the greatest invention of all time?
    • If you were in charge of the music for our family vacation, which songs would you pick?
    • Which TV family is the most fun to watch?
    • If you could have a wild animal from anywhere in the world as a pet, what animal would you choose?
    • Where would you go for a dream vacation?
    • If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
    • What is one thing you could absolutely not live without?
    • If you won the lottery, what would you do with the money?
    • If you could live in any time period, which one would it be?
    • What is your favorite thing you learned today?
    • If you had to eat just one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
    • What is one thing you want to accomplish in your lifetime?
    • What book are you reading right now? What do you like about it? What do you dislike about it?
    • If you could donate $1,000 to any charity, which charity would you select?
    • If you could trade lives with anyone, who would it be?

First steps:

Set a goal to eat together at least once a week at first and build up from there.

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