What if there was one thing you could do to keep your kids from using drugs, alcohol, or tobacco, improve their behavior and attitudes, improve their nutrition, and help them make good grades? Would you do it? It sounds too good to be true but believe it or not, research shows there really is one thing you can do to help your children have a great chance in succeeding in all areas of life.
You will find information on the research-proven benefits associated with family mealtime. Learn how to make family mealtime realistic & enjoyable for your busy family. Also included are quick family mealtime menu ideas to help you incorporate this important tradition into your home.
Benefits of Family Mealtime
The benefits of regular family mealtimes are endless. Who knew such a simple act could impact so many areas of your developing children’s lives. Family mealtimes are certainly an easy way to help ensure that your children will have the tools and support necessary to be successful in life. And don’t forget that preparing meals at home is often less expensive and healthier than eating meals on the run.
Children who live in families that eat together five or more nights per week on a consistent basis enjoy the following as compared to kids who eat less than two times per week with their families:
Nutrition and physical development – kids eat more fruits and vegetables, get a wider variety of nutritious foods, have lower rates of childhood obesity, and make healthier choices when they are on their own.
Emotional development – kids are better able to manage negative emotions, are at less risk of developing eating disorders, and have more positive interactions with others.
Social development – kids learn important turn-taking skills, have improved communication skills, and learn appropriate ways to share thoughts, feelings, and opinions.
Academics – kids are more likely to make A’s and B’s in school and they develop larger vocabularies, even more than those who read together with their parents.
Behavior – kids are much less likely to use marijuana, alcohol, or tobacco or have friends who use these substances and are less likely to engage in other risky behavior such as premarital sex.
It takes some effort and planning to make mealtime happen, but the rewards are well worth the work. In under an hour a day you can improve your family’s diet, food budget, and chances at success-pretty impressive.
Making Family Mealtime Realistic & Enjoyable
As with anything, in order for family mealtime to be a priority in your house, you have to make it work for your family’s needs and circumstances. There is not a single recipe for success when it comes to family mealtimes. But, there are a few steps everyone can take to help make family mealtime in your house an enjoyable reality.
- Plan meals ahead of time.
- Schedule a set time for meals.
- Involve all family members in the meal prep and clean up.
- Turn off the TV and all other electronic devices, including phones.
- Have a pleasant conversation and leave discipline and other negative emotions for another time.
If you struggle to find something to talk about, print and cut out these fun conversation starters. When the conversation lulls or energy drops, simply pull one question out of a cup and get the positive chatter rolling.
If you are new to family mealtimes set a realistic goal for your family. If it seems impossible to have meals together every day, set a more realistic goal of 2 or 3 times per week. Family mealtimes do not have to be all or nothing. Eating just a few meals together a week is better than none and you may find you enjoy it so much it becomes a priority to do it more often.
Family mealtime doesn’t just count for dinner. If dinner is not a realistic goal to eat together try having breakfast or lunch as a family. Again, for family mealtime to be realistic and enjoyable, it has to work for your family. Breakfast together can be just as rewarding as dinner.
Don’t forget that family mealtime is supposed to be fun; try including some meal themes into your routine to keep it fun and interesting. Have taco Tuesdays or homemade pizza Fridays.
Source: Utah State University Extension