These days, it seems like every member of the family is in a hurry. We're jetting off to work, running off to school, and hurrying to get the kids to sports practices, dance classes, and music lessons. Unfortunately, this often means we're rushing through dinner, too. More and more families go by the drive-thru, eat in the car, or eat at home in separate rooms than ever before. While it can be challenging to find an hour or so to sit down with your kids, spouse, and other family members, as it turns out, having a family meal together each day is very important. Here are ten reasons why you should make room in your schedule to gather around the table:
Strengthen Family Ties
Some of the biggest gains you'll make will be when you take time to have regular family meals together are stronger family ties. Turn off the TV, put down the mobile devices, sit together, and take time to interact with each other. You'll usually find that your relationship improves, even when you're not sitting down to dinner. It's the perfect opportunity to get to know each other on a deeper level. Best of all, you'll provide each other with a sense of belonging that can help build confidence, especially in your kids.
As it turns out, families who eat together are usually healthier. Instead of grabbing fast food, they're cooking with more nutritious ingredients. Instead of just burgers and chicken nuggets, family meals expose each of you to a wider variety of foods that usually include fruits and vegetables. It's also easier to control portions, especially for your kids, when you serve food at home.
Families who eat together typically communicate with each other better. Some families who previously never ate at the dinner table might be concerned that their dining table is too small for the whole family to eat at comfortably. However, with the convenience of expandable table sets, a family could have a small table for moments when their dining room is crowded, and expand it for dinner gatherings. The improved communications families have when they can all sit at the same table together is amazing to behold. You can even use discussions at the dinner table as an opportunity to talk to your kids about important issues without making it feel like you're lecturing them.
Learn to Work Together
Preparing meals doesn't have to be one family member's job. Making the entire process a family activity is an excellent way to fit it into your schedule. Planning menus together, having children set the table while you cook, teaching them family recipes, and even doing dishes together after the meal also teaches everyone how to work together as a team. This is a skill your children can take out into the real world. You can even work together to plan a menu for the week and do the shopping if you want to go the extra mile.
Teach Younger Children
If you have younger children in your family, such as toddlers and preschoolers, sitting down to eat together can be a great lesson for them as they learn how to feed themselves. They'll more than likely take notice of parents and older siblings eating and strive to be just like them.
If you're looking for a more practical reason why family meal time is critical, think of all the money you'll save. Countless studies have shown that families who cook and eat at home generally save plenty of money each month. It's hard to argue with that.
Serve as Role Models
When you sit down as a family, it's the perfect opportunity for mom, dad, and other adults in the family to serve as role models for their kids. From eating healthy foods to practicing good table manners, your kids are always watching to see how you conduct yourself and will eventually imitate your habits.
Create Lifetime Memories
Thirty years from now, when your kids are raising their own families, they're not going to remember all those trips to the drive-thru. They are, however, going to remember that funny story dad told at dinner or that time mom announced her promotion at work. You're creating memories and possibly even new traditions to pass down through the generations.
Prevent High-Risk Behaviors
Studies have also shown that children who sat down with their parents when they were younger are less likely to engage in high-risk behaviors, like drugs, teenage sex, and violence. Taking an hour or so out of your day to eat dinner is worth it if it prevents your kids from doing these things as they get older.
Finally, sitting down to dinner together every night — or even almost every night — can be a very good way to relieve stress. For that hour or so, no one is thinking about work, school, homework, or any of the bad things that happened that day. It's your time to relax, unwind, and enjoy your family. It can be just what the doctor ordered to make life a little more peaceful.
Tips for Making Time for a Family Meal:
If you want to make time for a family meal but you aren't sure where to start, follow these tips:
- Start with one or two meals a week, and try to work your way up to six or seven.
- Involve everyone in planning, from setting a time to choosing the menu.
- Avoid yelling, name-calling, or discussing topics that will upset each other.
- Turn off the TV, and make everyone leave their phones and other devices behind.
- Make some changes in your schedule — if you can't sit down to eat with your kids at least once a week, you may be doing too much.