The kids have been back in school for nearly two months now – long enough for the sweet lazy days of summer to waft into a distant memory. While I miss the unstructured homework-free schedule, there is something reassuring to falling back into a routine.
One of the best parts of autumn is that our dinner time routine stabilizes so that I can look everyone in the eye over a meal and assess how the day has gone. Why I take such personal pleasure in this is probably because it was part of my food and family heritage but now, there are some compelling reasons why we ought to hold onto this tradition and it’s not just for memory’s sake. Here are 10 strong reasons to hold them regularly:
1. Eating together enables you to pass along your food philosophies to your children and others. You can converse about eating locally and seasonally and the benefits of both.
2. Dinner conversation is important whether or not it is about food. Researchers at the West Virginia University Extension found that children increased their vocabulary at a more rapid rate when dining with their parents.
3. The same study found that children are more likely to incorporate fruits and vegetables into their eating habits than if their families ate meals on the fly.
4. A study from Columbia University revealed that adolescents who had family meals at least 5 times per week were more likely to receive As and Bs than their colleagues who did not.
5. Jennifer at Food On Our Table, advocates for family meal time rituals because of the studies that point to kids who are less likely to do drugs or get depressed. Check out her terrific tips and courses on how to create family dinnertime!
6. Another piece of research ran regression analyses on the a myriad of factors from a population of Rhode Scholars. The single common variable identifying them as a Rhode Scholar? Their participation in family meals.
7. Eating together allows the opportunity to prepare a meal together giving the life skill of cooking and perhaps mastery of a few recipes.
8. Family dinner does not have to be fancy or predictable. How about a picnic on the lawn after a swim meet? What is predictable is the routine of having the meal and that can give children a sense of security that builds confidence.
9. Family meals give us the opportunity to raise more considerate children. Through meal guidelines and the enforcement of manners, children are prepared for dining out at the homes of others or in restaurants. Make a list of your basic dinner rules such as using please and thank you, saying a dinner blessing or no television. Break up the chores such as setting the table, filling water glasses or cleaning up afterwards.
10. If dinners are truly difficult due to varying schedules and availability, try breakfast together each day. Set up a schedule in advance so that everyone understands when they’re expected to be home for meal time. The real benefit of holding this ritual is that it becomes part of the definition of your family. It can build a loving trusting relationship amongst you and your kids and between your children.
What tricks and tips do you have or need that enable you to hold regular family meals?