Nothing is better than spending quality time as a family, but when you are a busy parent it can be hard to schedule time for the entire family to be together. Even though it might be a challenge, it’s important to find time during the week to connect with your kids, and one of the most traditional ways is to set aside time for dinner at least 3-5 times a week. Studies show that there are multiple mental and physical benefits that affect both parents and children. Here are just a few examples of how family dinners can benefit your family and some helpful tips on how to make family meals a priority in your home!
The All Around Benefits
When you sit down around the table and engage with your kids, you are giving them the opportunity to practice their conversational skills, while also getting to hear details about their day. Studies even show that when kids and teens are interacting with their family in a positive setting, they are at a lower risk for depression as well as substance and alcohol abuse. It can help them in school as well, with kids who participate in family meal time earning better grades on average and developing their vocabulary and language skills at a faster rate. Parents also can feel more connected with their kids around the table, and can have a better insight on how their children are adapting to the challenges that come with growing up.
Family dinner also presents a great opportunity to make sure your child is eating the right foods, and allows you to teach them about portion sizes and healthy habits. Research has found that kids who eat dinner with their family on a weekly basis maintain a healthier body weight, and consume more balanced meals. It can also help teens and young adults who struggle with eating disorders or poor body image. Parents can use the time to teach kids table etiquette, and give them skills that they can take with them when they eat with guests or larger family gatherings. Adults can use preparing dinner as an excuse to introduce children to cooking and preparing food at a young age as well. It will help them learn the basics and will take the stress out of putting food on the table, and create an even richer bonding experience.
Inspire your Family to Come to the Table
After you’ve been briefed on the importance of eating dinner as a family, you’re probably left thinking that it’s easier said than done. With so many distractions, it’s a challenge to not only bring your family to the table, but to keep them engaged in conversation through the duration of the meal. Social media and electronics are definitely big obstacles to quality family time, and it can be hard for both parents and children to disconnect from the digital world. Encourage kids to leave their phones and other devices in their rooms when the come to the table, and set a good example by leaving your phones off and put away as well. Or, try to disable the wifi using an app like OurPact for a couple hours a night, and use the time for reading or maybe a family game night.
The atmosphere that you create in your dining area can also have a big effect on whether your family feels comfortable around the table. From a design perspective, you want to create an interior space that is cozy and welcoming, so make sure you have a comfortable dining room furniture and uniform table settings that are pleasing to the eye. Involving fresh flowers or plants in your dining space is also a great way to ground the room and keep the air purified and fresh!
Outside of the physical setting, you should also keep your conversations welcoming and gratifying for all parties at the table. Allow your kids to share what’s on their mind without judgment, and resist the desire to lecture them after they share a story. If your children feel comfortable talking and sharing aspects of their day, you will have a better pulse on their social and emotional health. You can also take the time at dinner to talk about family history, personal experience, and any challenges faced as an adult day as well. This can encourage your kids to be more open as well, by sharing your thoughts and daily challenges openly with them in return.