When the calendar turns to reveal a brand new year, it’s a grand time to create better habits for you and your family.
If you’re overwhelmed and wondering where to begin, may I suggest the essential family habit for 2017: having meals together as a family on a regular basis.
That’s it. It’s not rocket science, nor will you have to buy a special “family meal kit” to participate.
(If you are already practicing this habit, carry on! Stand strong against the temptation to eat on the go, watch TV or multitask while eating).
But if you aren’t having at least 5 meals a week together around the family dinner table, it’s time to make a change.
There are many benefits to family meal time:
—Researchers found that for young children, dinnertime conversation boosts vocabulary even more than being read aloud to.
–For school age children, regular meal time is a more powerful predictor of high achievement scores than time spend in school, doing homework, playing sports or doing art.
–Teens who ate family meals five to seven times a week were twice as likely to get A’s in school as those who ate dinner with their families fewer than two times a week.
–Kids who eat regular family meals consume more fruits, vegetables, vitamins and fewer fried foods and sodas.
–Young adults who ate family meals are less likely to be obese and more likely to eat healthier as adults.
–Regular family dinners are associated with lower rates of teen depression, suicidal thoughts, drug use, smoking, and sexual activity.
Why is family dinner so effective? Since we no longer farm together, or sew together, or sing together (remember the Partridge Family anyone?), we don’t have a regular way of connecting with one another. Family dinner provides that space to know one another and strengthen family ties and trust.
Regular meal times bring routine and rhythm to life. They bring stability to a child’s life. The power of course lies in the conversation and the environment around the meal. If there’s tension and stony silence, the results may not be noticeable. They even may be negative.
But if there’s warmth, laughter, listening, and respect (served up with a simple meal that doesn’t have to be five star), the results will be stellar.
What are you going to change so you can enjoy the benefits of regular family meals?
You might have to eat later to accommodate sports schedules. Or cancel a meeting with friends so you can eat with the family. Or maybe you’ll gather together at breakfast because dinner is not working out.
Make it a goal to have 5-7 meals together and keep problem solving until that goal is a reality!
What have you done to make time for family meals?