It’s certainly not getting easier to sit around the table with your family and a wholesome dinner. If you’re a working mom, you probably drive straight from work to pick your kids up from practice or another after-school activity. Grabbing a few burgers on the way home or eating sandwiches in front of the TV can be an inviting option when you’ve such had a long day. And, it’s hard to make kids themselves sit still for 30 minutes to share a little time around the dinner table. There are benefits to making the effort to have a family meal, however. Even if you can’t do it every night, consider making it a 2 or 3 times a week tradition.
Being Here Now: Sitting down to eat is a form of thoughtful meditation. It’s a time to relax and reflect on the day, in a conscious manner. Try it sometime—eating while standing in front of the fridge or while watching TV just isn’t the same. Sitting around a table lets everyone in your family have a little chill out time from work, from homework, from cell phones and other technology. It’s a type of relaxation that we don’t get enough of these days.
Create Stability: For kids, stability is created by events they can anticipate, that happen again and again. Making family dinner a usual occurrence in your household is one easy way to provide this stability, and to give your kids a sense of control in their lives. Several scientific studies have found a significant positive correlation between a family’s eating habits and the amount of conflict they experience. Families with healthy, stable eating habits had less turbulent relationships than those who ate junk in front of the TV.
My own family, while growing up, was not without problems. My older brother decided to drop out of high school and fought with my dad constantly. Through it all, we still had family dinner (although my brother didn’t always attend). As a younger kid, this stability helped me understand that we were going to get through the difficult period, and that things were going to be okay.
Make Time to Talk: Especially as your kids move into their teen years, actually talking to them about anything of note can become difficult. They clam up, and respond to any questions with a head nod or a mumbling “uh huh.” Eating around a table naturally encourages talking; it’s a low-stress environment for sharing and communicating with one another. It’s is a great opportunity to sneak meaningful discussions into your time with your preteen or teen, without them even noticing.
Eat Better: With nearly ¾ of the U.S. population overweight or obese, many people are doing all they can to stay healthy. Eating meals around a table is a simple step you can take for you and your family, to ensure that everyone eats better. Why? The more conscious you are of eating, the likelier you are to only eat the amount of food you actually need. Unlike eating in front of the TV, you won’t be shoveling food into your mouth without even noticing it.
And, meals served around a table are likelier themselves to be healthier. When is the last time you served a butter-laden bowl of instant mac and cheese for a family meal around the table? You’re more likely to put together a balanced dinner when it’s served in a bit more formal setting. So what’s the bottom line about family dinners? They help you relax, reconnect, eat, and feel better. They take a little more energy, but will certainly pay off over time for you and your family.