Meal planning helps us organize our time, especially our evenings. An organized family finds it easier to sit down at the dinner table together, and the more we learn about this practice, the more important we find it to be.
I’m not saying it’s easy. One kid has football practice. One kid has dance class. You wanted to get to the book club and your spouse has to work late. Schedules can get insane, especially when you try to squash all of these schedules onto one “family calendar.” But if you make it a priority to eat together, it is possible, at least most of the time.
Studies show that family members who eat together communicate better with one another and get along better. Parents and children are able to build stronger relationships just by having that time of the day, each day, to decompress together and to “check in,” to see how things are going.
Apparently, eating dinner with your children also helps them learn better. In 1994, Louis Harris and Associates had 1000 high school seniors take an academic test that included several personal questions. The survey showed that the kids who regularly ate dinner with their families scored better than those who didn’t. A similar study was done at the elementary level, and results were the same. It was even discovered that preschoolers whose families ate together had better language skills than those with no planned mealtime.
In fact, a 2007 study conducted by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University found that family dining is associated with lower rates of teen smoking, drinking, illegal drug use and prescription drug abuse. Teens are busy people, and are often the ones who miss out on family mealtime. But are they the ones who need family mealtime the most?
Researchers have also determined that families who eat together consume more healthy foods, and less junk food. Family mealtime provides an excellent opportunity for us adults to role model good, healthy eating habits that will ultimately guide our children through a lifetime of healthy eating!
And speaking of role modeling, family mealtime offers the perfect opportunity for us to teach our kids proper table manners and social skills. Go observe a lunch period at any local school, and I would almost bet you would observe an alarming lack of proper etiquette. But this doesn’t have to be the case. Sitting down together at the table now can prevent your children from making some embarrassing errors later in life.
Family mealtime can also be a great opportunity to expose your children to different cultures. Every once in a while, introduce a new dish to them, and take advantage of the opportunity to discuss where the dish hails from, and what the culture looks like in that part of the world.
The lives of children today can be stressful (especially for our teenagers). Having something in their lives that is pleasant and consistent can do wonders for their stress levels. Just knowing that they get to come home to a safe place, where they get to sit down with people who love them, and enjoy nourishing, life-sustaining food, will provide them with a sense of security that they are apt to carry with them for the rest of their lives, and eventually hand down to their children. Hopefully, around a dinner table.