If you are looking to develop your child into their well-balanced and happy optimal selves, look no further than the family table. Everyone knows that family meals are a good idea. We sort of have this nostalgic notion that when we sit down together to dine we will evoke that old-fashioned sense of family wholesomeness. But there is much, much more to the family meal than nostalgia. There is a body of research that consistently shows significant benefits to eating together as a family.
Now, I am the worst offender of disorganized meal times. I do not like cooking. I am a poor meal planner and my large family is busy. Even though I know dinner must occur every single day, I do not contemplate dinner until I’ve left the office and am driving home by way of the grocery store. Needless to say, if I have not planned the meal, I certainly have not considered how all of our paths will converge at the same time in order to sit and eat it. In all my years of parenting, I have never mastered this. Instead, I foster fantasies of doing away with dinner altogether. If I could just wean my family from that last daily meal, my life would be much easier!!
To be certain, eating together takes real commitment and planning. These days, with the way we schedule (over-schedule) our lives, making the family meal happen must mean that we seriously shift our priorities. It starts with a decision to put it at the top of the parenting list. So in order to help motivate you to make this shift for your kids, here is the list of reasons the family meal is one of your most powerful parenting tools:
The studies show that Family meals:
1. Improve children’s eating habits. Kids who eat with their families at least 5 times per week tend to eat more fruits, vegetables, fiber and dairy products than those who eat alone.
2. Develop stronger parent-child relationships and family connectedness. The meal time can be like a daily time out. Lots of good communication can happen here.
3. Impact kid’s grades for the better. Kids who eat regularly with their parents have better academic performance than kids who don’t.
4. Contribute to happier kids. Teens who regularly eat with their families are less likely to get into fights, think about suicide, smoke, drink, or use drugs.
5. Contribute to better decision-making. Teens who eat with their parents are more likely to initiate sexual activity later than teens who do not.
6. Keep girls from developing eating disorders. Teens who reported that their families had frequent, structured and positive family meals were less likely to develop disordered eating habits.
These study results should turn your head. These are serious outcomes. Who knew that the family mealtime could be this important?
Studies showed in 2003, only 50% of Black (non-hispanic) children, and 40% of Black teens, participated in family meals six to seven days a week. Remember, we have the potential to eat together at least twice a day– in the morning, at breakfast and at dinner. Most of us are not together at lunch. Even if you had a late night snack together once everyone is home, you’d be making a meaningful step.
See the studies for yourself: Click Here!
Then Join me in the Summer Family Meal Challenge–Click HERE.