Everyone is so busy these days. And eating together as a family becomes difficult to arrange. So, why are family dinners so important? There are many reasons why sitting together at the table for a family meal is essential. The benefits are physical, mental and social.
Family dinners are sometimes the only time the entire family is together in one place. You need togetherness to create a family bond. Mental health improves by spending time with those we love. And social interactions are formed by our earliest family encounters. So, yes, family dinners are extremely beneficial for children.
Some of the benefits include:
- Better communication – kids learn to listen to others, respond with love and to be heard.
- Build self-esteem – belonging to a family builds your kid’s sense of self worth.
- Sense of security – family life makes us feel safe, loved and cared for.
- Nutritional benefits – home cooked meals are usually more nutritious.
- Mental health benefits – all of the above contribute to a positive mental outlook.
Components Of Family Dinners
It’s important to explain the WHY of having a family dinner to your kids. More importantly, let them know this is a way for you to be with them, and that you want to be with them. Tell them you enjoy their company. Being together helps to build a stronger relationship between all family members.
Use these components to explain to your kids the value of the family dinner.
- Set expectations
- Work together
Setting expectations and communicating the expectations weekly helps keep everyone on track. Having open communication benefits everyone. Talk about why each of these is an expectation. Consistency and family members giving their undivided attention should be the priority. Kids have a harder time understanding that at the beginning. As the family dinner continues, kids begin to feel the difference.
- Set a meal time, make it the same time each week.
- Set rules about manners and behavior- ie: no electronics at the table.
- Try family dinners 3 or 4 times a week.
- Make it a goal to spend an hour together.
Family dinners are a great opportunity to work together. In addition, it is a great time to learn the different aspects of responsibility. Having the meal ready on time is a big responsibility. Give all family members some ownership in preparing the meal. This helps them develop lifelong skills. It’s a great time to teach by example.
- Work on a meal plan together.
- Decide on certain jobs: setting the table, cooking the meal, cleaning up.
- Grocery shop together.
Eating dinner together provides time for the family to find out about one another. It’s a great way for each person to share things that are going on at school, with friends and other activities. Regular conversation builds vocabulary and teaches healthy communication skills.
- Talk about your day.
- Have a theme, if needed, to start a conversation.
- Give family members the option to pass if needed.
- Give each member the opportunity to respond.
- Be good listeners.
As we know, some parents have certain places they sit when at the table. It’s up to the family on what you want to do with seating. Do you want everyone to have the same seats each week or change it up. It probably depends on your family.
For some kids, it’s best to have the same seat for their routine. For others, it doesn’t matter. If it’s a struggle each then play rock, paper, scissors to determine who sits where at the table.
- Let kids choose where they sit.
- Switch up seating each week.
Consistency is super important. It gives your kids a sense of security and builds a trusting relationship. Frequent family dinners are beneficial for kids by: building self-esteem, supporting family values and learning to trust family members.
- Stick with your dinner schedule.
- Go through the expectations and if there are any changes on Sundays.
- All members at the table.
For the past three decades, research shows that having a family dinner consistently, with all family members, benefits the family physically, emotionally and academically. Children who eat dinner with their family build trust and a connection with their parents. This relationship benefits everyone in the family throughout life.
Combining food, fun, and conversation helps all family members find more joy in life. Start today to find more joy in life by eating together as a family.