I know that you’re busy, and it may seem like it’s impossible to share a meal together as a family, but making the time will be rewarding. Sharing a scheduled and predictable time together not only nourishes your bodies, it’s a nurturing tradition that allows you opportunity to share and support each other in a meaningful way. Don’t save family dinner’s for special holidays. Make them a nightly tradition.
Sadly, many families allow their schedules to dictate how and where they eat. Rather than spending dinner time together as a family around the table, there are meetings, sports practice, and other obligations created. As a result, they may be growing further and further apart. If this is the case for you, perhaps it’s time to reevaluate all of the commitments and decide if time spent together is more important. It doesn’t have to be dinner, it just has to be any time set aside daily where your children will know they’ll have your undivided attention. It’s a time when they’re free to talk about their lives, share concerns, and seek support and advice for dealing with problems. For children, having their parents’ undivided attention was an expression of love and trust.
Research has shown that children who have meals with their family at least twice a week are less likely to try drugs or alcohol, less likely to become depressed, and more likely to make good grades. This is true for our family. Both of our boys, now adults, are happy, well-adjusted, and have not been in trouble. Of course, having dinner together isn’t a guarantee, you have to really connect during your time and carry it on throughout your day.
Another benefit of having a family dinner is helping your family develop good eating habits. When you’re eating at home, you’re less likely to be eating as much junk food. If you’re running from place to place, you’ll likely pick up fast food in between activities. That’s no way to eat on regular basis. Eating at home allows you to provide fruits and vegetables, control sweets, and control the fats your family eats. It also allows you to teach lessons on nutrition, the origin of foods, and more.
Eating at home should be less expensive than eating out, but not always. Sadly, with all the “super-size” and “value meals” available, it can sometimes cost more, but you have control over how much you spend, the serving sizes your family eats, and the types of foods you buy. If you stick with fresh food and stay away from processed, you’ll also be serving nutritionally dense foods. Cooking at home also gives you the opportunity to teach the children and teens in your family how to cook so they’ll have that skill when they move out. It gives you the opportunity to discuss measuring which helps with math skills; recipes which helps with reading skills; and the best part is the confidence kids get from creating something and serving it with pride.
It is possible someone in the family will have an activity or appointment that can’t be broken, and that’s okay. Having an occasional meal where the whole family can’t be present isn’t a problem. When you’re trying to create a nurturing tradition such as family dinner, it’s important to be flexible, but not allow the interruptions to your family dinners become the norm. Again, if you simply can’t do dinner because of a schedule that can’t be broken, find another time or meal that you can accommodate. My husband works 24-hour shifts and on the nights he was at work, we stayed with our family dinner routine and the kids chatted with their dad via telephone later in the night. This kept their nighttime schedule predictable, kids thrive on that.