The Importance of the Family Meal
The family table is a place where parents can observe their children's moods/behaviors, learn about the activities that they're involved in, and friends they hang out with after school.
Yet, after-school activities, long workdays, and conflicting schedules are keeping families from coming together at the table. Other obstacles stopping families from having mealtimes together are the perception of having no time to cook, not having the skills or the knowledge to cook, and wanting to do other things, such as watch TV.
So how important is mealtime for your family?
Research has shown families that have meals together are healthier, and children grow up with less chances of becoming overweight or obese. Families that eat together tend to eat more fruits and vegetables too. Children from families that eat together often have increased language development and vocabulary, better grades in school, and decreased risky behaviors, such as cigarette smoking and drinking alcohol.
Tips for Getting Started with Family Meals
Having regular meals together can be simple. Here are some tips to get started:
- Set a goal to have dinner together a couple times per week and mark those dates on the calendar. Make family meals a priority, and let everyone know when dinner is served and when they are expected home.
- Keep it simple; the family meal doesn't have to be elaborate, focus on being together. Use the crock-pot, make a pizza, or pick up take-out! The goal is to get everyone around the table and to spend quality time together.
- Get the whole family involved in preparation and in the decision about what foods will be offered. Getting everyone involved can create a fun atmosphere and set the tone for the meal. Also, have the kids set the table!
- Turn off the TV, computer, cell phone, and other devices. This will help set the right mood for good conversation and family connections.
A family meal doesn't have to be dinner, it can be gathering around the table for breakfast or lunch too. The idea is to get everyone together.
Parents need a routine time and space to connect with their children, and children will benefit from regular interaction with their families in a safe environment. The family meal provides this safe environment and with practice, can become a very routine part of healthy living.
Children can learn where their food comes from, discover family values and traditions, and learn about their own culture. Parents can learn what their children think and believe and experience during their days at school. Enjoying a meal together can be such a simple activity, plus it provides a great number of benefits to parents and especially children.