Growing up in Kansas in a large family, we always ate our meals together especially dinner during the week and supper on Saturday and Sunday night. Mom didn’t cook on Sunday night after making a massive meal for Sunday dinner (served nearly always at 1 p.m.) which is why we learned to make small plates of toasted tuna and cheese sandwiches or tuna Frenchies (as my older brother calls them). I don’t think we were eating the same sandwich. Believe me, we didn’t call them small plates back then either.
Dinner time was family time. When the dinner bell rang, we came running. This is where us Hauck kids benefited from:
Family bonding: Mundane everyday activities bring a family together. We argued over chores but we spent time together during a meal, for little cost, that brought our family together. We shared stories and common experiences and our parents shared their family stories with us. We laughed a lot.
Less behavioral problems: Dinner was devoted to conversation even when we didn’t want it. Research proves that young people who communicate more with their parents tend to have less behavioral problems.
Helps kids developed parenting skills: Kids learn by example. This pattern of eating dinner together in our family began generations back. And hopefully will continue with generations into our future.
Less violence: Quality time together with a parent will reduce the anxiety and anger that a child will experience especially during the teenage years.
Less chance of drug abuse: Again, daily, quality time will reduce a child’s chances of needing to turn to substance abuse.
So if the research shows the importance of family time together at meals, why are so many of us struggling to make it happen? Here are some tips from the WebMD feature by Jeanie Davis that may help you in juggling meal time and for your busy family.
- Set a goal. Twice a week, perhaps? Build from there.
- Keep it simple. Family meals don’t have to be elaborate. Work salads and vegetables into meals. Focus on familiar favorites, like chili or frittatas.
- Be prepared. Keep ingredients for healthful meals on hand, including plenty of fruits and vegetables.
- Keep healthy ‘appetizers’ on hand. Stock the kitchen with fresh fruits, nuts, and low-fat cheese — stuff the kids can snack on after school, instead of chips.
- Get the family involved. Let kids help prepare meals and set the table.
- Use the crock pot. Put everything together before leaving for work in the morning. You’ll come home to the delicious smell of a cooked meal.
- Pick up take-out, order pizza, or eat out. It still counts as quality time spent together.
- Avoid portion distortion. Keep serving sizes under control, whether you’re at home or eating out.
- Make it enjoyable. Leave the serious discussions for another time. Family meals are for nourishment, comfort, and support.
- Set the mood. Play soothing music. Put flowers on the table. Light a candle. Create a relaxing environment
” A family that dines together, stays together.” So turn off the T.V and the cell phones, gather at the family table, and ask each other, how was your day?