Do you want to ensure that your kids grow up healthy and have strong bonds with you and with each other? With one simple action, you can help bring your family closer together!
Want to know the secret?
Have family dinners as often as possible. Even if your busy schedule only allows a few each week, your whole family will benefit from gathering for meals together.
The Importance of Family Dinners
1. Connect with your children.
Family dinners are a time to enjoy and connect with other. By fostering pleasant and friendly conversation, everyone gets a chance to talk and listen to each other. Eating together makes it much easier to keep up with what’s going on in your children’s lives.
2. Encourage healthy eating.
Set a good example by provided balanced meals with plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean protein. Kids who learn what sensible portions look like will be less vulnerable to becoming overweight.
3. Improve your children’s emotional well being.
Many studies confirm that children who eat with their families have dramatically lower risks for depression, substance abuse, suicide, and premarital sexual activity. The dinner table is an excellent place to foster open lines of communication. When you keep daily communication flowing, your kids are more likely to feel loved and to come to you with sensitive issues.
4. Reduce stress.
Family dinners help relieve stress for both parents and children. Give yourselves time to relax after the tensions that build up at work and school over a meal together, then you can settle down to homework or a movie with a clear mind.
5. Teach social skills.
Meals are about more than food. Kids need opportunities to practice table manners and polite conversation long before they tackle their first business lunch. Use family dinners to teach life skills.
6. Help your kids do better in school.
Studies also show that kids do better in school when they grow up in homes where family dinners are a routine. It’s one more sign that involved parents are key to a good education. Younger children get a big boost in language skills and vocabulary by talking with adults and older siblings.
7. Save money.
Meals at home are much less expensive than eating out. The money you save on dinner can help pay for family vacations and college tuition.
How to Find Time for Family Dinners
1. Keep a family calendar.
If you need to schedule work, school, and extracurricular activities, a calendar will help you design a routine that’s feasible for you. Cut back on overtime or prioritize outside activities if it enables the family to sit down together a few times a week.
Tip: Limit the number of extracurriculars your kids are involved in. Family time is more important than sports practice!
2. Prepare simple meals.
Collect quick recipes and keep your kitchen stocked with all the basics. Salads and stir-fries are healthy and fast.
Tip: I love my slow cooker and quick meals. Check out my RECIPES for fast and frugal dinner ideas.
3. Plan ahead on weekends.
Take advantage of any free time to bake lasagna or make a pot of chili. Freeze leftovers for quick weekday eating. If you have a full day available, plan a freezer cooking day and prep meals for an entire month!
4. Get takeout food.
Store the numbers for your family’s favorite takeout in your phone. Our family loves to order pizza or Chinese when we get takeout!
5. Involve the whole family in making dinner.
Work together as a team to share responsibilities. Even small children can assist with setting the table and planning the menu while older kids cook or clean up.
Tip: My kids love to be involved in dinner prep, but I struggle to enjoy being in the kitchen (with or without them). Having them set the table, get out the ingredients, etc., is a great way for them to feel involved without crowding the actual cooking space.
6. Encourage compromise.
Give everyone a turn to suggest or prepare his or her favorite dishes. Kids will learn to accommodate others and express their preferences appropriately.
7. Turn off the television and phones.
Except for emergencies, take a break from answering the phone, checking your social media and email, or watching TV during dinnertime. Focus on each other and on your conversation.
Family dinners are a wonderful opportunity to spend time together. With this one simple practice, you can get closer to your kids and help them grow up healthy and happy.
photo credit: dougbelshaw