Family Mealtime: The Gift of Being Together
In this fast paced world that we live in, it can seem nearly impossible to schedule family meal times together. In the past 20 years, structured sports time has doubled while family dinners have declined by up to 33%. It is important to note, however, that in study after study, the benefits of family mealtime have been demonstrated for children of all ages.
Experts agree that children and teens, who share at least three family meals together a week are socially, emotionally and physically healthier. Studies from Harvard and Columbia University have concluded that the security and stability of the family meal is a primary factor in the prevention of childhood obesity, teen substance abuse and poor academic performance.
Sharing a relaxing meal can provide families the opportunity to reconnect with one another and help keep the lines of communication open. Children learn so much from their parents about social manners, how to communicate and healthy eating habits. Miriam Weinstein, author of The Surprising Power of Family Meals, writes “sitting down to a meal together draws a line around us. It encloses us and, for a brief time, strengthens the bonds that connect us with other members of our self-defined clan, shutting out the rest of the world.”
Here are a few tips in helping your family plan meaningful meals together:
v Keep it simple. The important thing is spending time together, not that you plan extravagant meals.
v Family mealtimes do not need to be evening meals. Perhaps your family is more likely to be together at breakfast, lunchtime or weekend brunch.
v Family mealtimes can be an opportunity to model appropriate table manners, teach healthy eating habits and introduce a variety of healthy foods.
v Enlist your family’s help in planning the menu, preparation and cleanup.
v Turn off the TV, cell phone and other distractions.
v Have good conversation and encourage everyone’s participation in the discussion.
o Ask everyone to share their favorite part or biggest challenge of the day.
o Take a stroll down memory lane and exchange memories about favorite family times together.
o Have each person share something about a book they are reading or a movie they have seen.
o Ask everyone to identify something they’d like to learn how to do and why.
The possibilities are endless. Just remember to keep it casual and enjoyable for everyone.
v Establish a rule that if disagreements start during a family meal, you will set aside another time to deal with the issue. Make family mealtime a “No Argument Zone.”
It’s never too late to begin establishing family mealtimes and finding a routine that works well for your family. Don’t get discouraged and commit to making family mealtime a priority. The benefits will be far reaching for your family. For additional information on ways to strengthen family relationships, please contact Alegent Health Employee Assistance at (402)398-5566 or