Family meals don’t have to be a thing of the past. Scroll through this post to find out why you should still make it a priority along with tips to make it simple and fun!
In a world where families are constantly on the go, “family meal time” can be pushed to a thing of the past. But carving out time for eating together is definitely worth the hassle. Science, logic, reason and experience are all in agreement that there are profound benefits for both the family as a whole and the individuals in it.
We’re a busy family with 4 children. Two have after school activities. And my husband’s work schedule is different every day (meaning, sometimes he’s not around during meal time). So we have to be very intentional about eating together or it could easily not happen.
Sometimes it’s breakfast and sometimes it’s dinner. We even have a couple of days it doesn’t happen at all. But we make the most of the meals we do get together and plan on keeping the tradition no matter how hard it gets in the busy teenage years.
WHY FAMILY MEALS ARE IMPORTANT
As each member of a family goes throughout their day, they are bombarded with noise and distraction. But home can be a refuge from the outside world. And mealtime can be the perfect place to regroup and recharge. Check out this article from the Washington Post to see how family meals are good for the brain, body, and spirit.
It might take a little planning and coordination, but eating together definitely has its benefits. Here are the top 7:
1. PROMOTES HEALTHY EATING
Families who eat together often times have healthier eating habits. A Harvard study showed that these families were twice as likely to eat the appropriate amounts of fruits and veggies compared to those who didn’t.
There have also been studies showing the relationship between family meals and weight management. And over time, these families tended to eat a wider variety of foods and even have less picky eaters!
2. FOSTERS BETTER PERFORMANCE
Did you know that eating together can boost your children’s grades? According to a Reader’s Digest study, they’ll be up to 40% more likely to get A’s and B’s! And be less likely to engage in harmful habits as they age.
This just might make all the dishes worth it! Eating together can also help with adults’ stress levels and performance at work.
3. PROVIDES AN EXCUSE TO UNPLUG
The most important element of having successful family mealtime is to leave technology out of it. No phones. No TV. No distractions. (Including the parents!)
As hard as this might seem, it is crucial. This is your family’s chance to have each other’s undivided attention. And on especially busy days, it could be the only time everyone is distraction free…which is a break we all could benefit from.
4. CREATES OPPORTUNITIES TO PRACTICE GOOD HABITS
Eating as a family is a great time to practice good habits. You can use the time to practice table manners or skills like listening. Talking during dinner also teaches the social etiquette of conversation.
5. PROMOTES CONVERSATION
Meals tend to make people happier and more relaxed. This can make conversation more natural.
During a meal, ask questions about each person’s day. Use this time to teach family values or tell family stories. To help promote conversation, keep in mind – this is a time to focus a little more on being in each other’s company and a little less on discipline or how much a child is eating.
6. PROVIDES A TIME TO SUPPORT EACH OTHER
Mealtime conversations don’t always have to be about happy topics.
When meals have become regular and trust and bonding have developed, the table can be a comfortable and safe place to open up. Other family members can offer support and a listening ear to anyone struggling. Or as a family, you could discuss a difficult topic.
7. HELPS TO GET IN SOME FAMILY TIME
Intentional family time is so important. It’s a safe space for support, learning, bonding and fun. Everyone goes about their separate lives during the day. Mealtime is the perfect time to regroup and reconnect.
And just for fun, mix it up occasionally! Try sprinkling in some of these special dinners.
HOW TO MAKE FAMILY MEALS HAPPEN MORE OFTEN
In the hustle and bustle of a busy week, eating together can be tough. But making the effort to be regular about it is worth the hassle.
Here are some tips to make it just a little easier:
Plan your meals out for the week ahead of time. Try to go grocery shopping only once a week (this is also great for budgeting!) so you already have everything you need.
When you’re planning, be as realistic as you can. What is your food budget? How much time will you have to cook? How much effort will these meals take?
Learn more about meal planning and how to make it a little easier.
If you have busy schedules or your days vary, try to aim for at least one meal a day together 3-4 times a week. And during especially busy times, get it in at least once a week.
It might take a little extra effort, but it is something that every family needs. Even if it’s not every day.
DON’T AIM FOR PERFECT
Part of being realistic is not being perfect. Of course you’re going to stress if you’re expecting perfectly balanced and completely homemade meals every single night. (As nice as that would be!)
But you need to make this a sustainable habit for your family, so do what you can and give yourself grace for the rest.
Sometimes instant rice and precooked chicken are on the menu. And sometimes it’s even cereal for dinner (ahem…when the hubby is at work…) Your family will survive. Put veggies on the menu a different night.
This is just a busy stage of life. It’s not forever. The most important thing is that you make time to eat together whenever you can. Even during the busy weeks when you can only find one or two nights to eat together.
INVOLVE THE KIDS MORE
Including your children, especially the little ones, can sometimes make things a little slower. But it’s a great way to have squeeze in a little extra family time and teach some useful skills along the way, even if it doesn’t happen every day.
Like getting your kids involved with chores, helping in the kitchen definitely has its payoffs. And as a bonus…when they are a part of the cooking process, there is a better chance they’ll eat the food too!
Here are a few ways your children can be involved at mealtime:
- Planning the meals
- Setting the table
- Filling the cups
- Washing or chopping fruits and veggies
- Assembling salads
- Setting timers for cooking
- Taking prepared food to the table
And after dinner, don’t make the cleaning an extra chore for yourself. Get everyone involved again! Even the youngest children can help clear their area. Your children can help with the dishes as they grow too.
Whether you clean up as a family, or assign specific tasks on certain nights, everyone can help. Even if it’s just a little.
Family meals don’t have to be another chore at the end (or beginning) of a long day. Keep it simple most of the time, make it fun some of the time, but try to do it all of the time. Or at least as often as you can!
What are your favorite ways to make the most of mealtimes?
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