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Benefits of Eating Together as a Family
Life with kids is busy. Between homework, soccer practice, piano lessons and driving them all over the state, parents still have to go to work, get the laundry done, wash the car, mow the yard, take the dog to the vet and still find a few hours to sleep. Making dinner and sitting down as a family often gets overlooked in favor of hurrying through a drive-through and wolfing down chicken nuggets on the way to the next lesson or errand. While it can be difficult to find the time, eating together as a family has many benefits. Here are 5 of them, along with some tips to make it happen.
Teens get into less trouble.
Surveys have shown that teens who eat regularly with their families are less likely to smoke marijuana or tobacco, drink alcohol, or suffer from depression. Engaging in regular, casual communication during meals makes kids more comfortable to talk to you about tough issues during other times.
Kids are healthier.
Fast food and junk food contributes to obesity, and the trend amongst even young kids is quickly growing. Eating dinner at home, or at a restaurant that offers healthy choices is better for everyone’s health.
Kids learn communication skills
During family dinner, put away the cell phones, laptops and tablets. Kids spend lots of time communicating without actually talking, thanks to technology. During family meals, you can have conversations about things that matter and learn about each other’s lives. Ask each family member to tell something about his/her day.
Everyone can practice good table manners.
Bolting down a cheeseburger while driving in the car doesn’t help your kid learn proper dining etiquette—which can be a problem when he grows up and has to attend business dinners! Eating together is a great opportunity to work on basic table manners—placing the napkin in your lap, using utensils properly, not yelling with your mouth full. Modeling manners doesn’t have to involve discipline and criticism—kids will imitate your good etiquette with a little bit of gentle encouragement.
Taste buds are developed and expanded.
Eating together is a great chance to try new foods together. While your kids may need to be exposed to a new kind of food several times, after awhile they’ll expand their repertoire to include more than just mac-n-cheese.
How to Make it Happen
Eating together requires a bit of pre-planning and organization. Here are some tips:
- Plan meals together on weekends and grocery shop in advance.
- Treat the family to a meal at a nice restaurant. No cooking—just good conversation.
- Teach older kids how to prepare meals and put them in charge occasionally.
- Find some quick and easy recipes that you can fall back on during busy nights.
- Find other families (or invite your own extended family) to eat with occasionally. Have potluck so everyone only has to prepare one item.