With the holiday’s just around the corner, perhaps you are preparing for some big family dinners. Yes, I know that all of the planning that goes into these dinners can be stressful, the end result is that eating together as a family – whether with your immediate family or extended family, is happiness and goodness. That’s right, spending time with family around the table, breaking bread, is good for everyone!
Family dinners were once a time-honored tradition. I grew up in the late 60’s and 70’s and my family ate dinner together every night of the week at 6 pm sharp. Dinner was an important time to get caught up, laugh, talk and just connect after a busy day. However, today, in many households, these gatherings have become scarce meetings. According to statistics, over forty percent of families don’t eat together on a regular occasion. Hectic schedules, work, school and social events seem to be what interferes most with family dinners.
Research speaks firmly in favor of gathering the family around the dinner table as often as possible. It appears as though family dinners are really healthy for the whole family and time well invested. Let me share just a few reasons why you should try to gather your household around a meal as often as you can.
Eating dinner with your family strengthens family bonds: Studies show that socializing at mealtimes strengthens family bonds and allows parents to be a positive role model. Teenagers of both sexes have a decreased chance of poor grades and substance abuse when they engage in family dinners. My family meals included help preparing the meal and cleaning up. Without a dishwasher, this left my sister and I often giggling over the sink and sharing news of the day. This was the time that we got to catch up and bond that we might not have had time for otherwise.
Family meals lead to better health: When families eat together there is more opportunity to cook healthy and monitor food intake. Studies show that having dinner together leads to better health because more time is taken to prepare a well-rounded meal and make wise ingredient choices. This is great training for children who are learning to make choices on their own.
Eating together gives you a chance to talk about family history: One of the fondest memories I have of family mealtime were the stories that my parents shared. I learned much of my family history over meals and eagerly looked forward to my parent’s stories each time we gathered together.
Gathering for meals is a springboard for relaxation: When time is taken to prepare a meal and share it with your family, time kind of slows down and this is very beneficial to both mental and physical health. Mealtime is a time you can letdown, unload and recharge.
Do it as often as you can
I feel that I am a better parent because of the time I spent at the family table. Because of this, I raised my own children around the family table as much as possible. To this day, with one child married, one in college and one still at home, I try to gather us as often as I can. As our family grows, we still enjoy the time together and celebrate the opportunities we have to gather around a meal. I strongly encourage you to do your best to plan and execute family meals as often as you can. Time passes quickly and opportunities to connect with family should not be overlooked. Even if you can only eat together a few times a week, it is a ritual that everyone in the family will benefit from.
Tips for success
One way to organize family mealtimes is to cook around themes. If your kids are older, give them responsibility for shopping, cooking and cleaning for at least one meal a week. Choose fun themes such as Mexican Fiesta Night, Salad and Soup Night, Taco Tuesday Night or Breakfast for Dinner Night. This gives your kids some simple guidelines and also makes them feel involved in the process. Let them prepare the menu and even shop for the meal.
You can also plan your family meals out in advance. If you have busy schedules, call a family meeting and plan your meal dates for a whole month. Mark your family meal dates on the calendar so that everyone can plan around them. This helps to ensure that you will spend time together as a family no matter how busy you get.
So, don’t just make special holiday’s like Thanksgiving and Christmas about family meals – keep the practice going all through the year!