One positive aspect of this global quarantine may be that families start eating together again. I even think that it may be one of the positive things that our kids may remember from this stay at home directive. It will be interesting to see what our kids take away from this time, possibly meaningful time spent with parents and siblings, eating meals together, reading, playing games, and spending time at home with parents and siblings.
Family dinner is one of those things that we might be doing now that we didn’t before. We know that eating meals together is good for kids but can also be one of the things that fall by the wayside of a busy life. Work, school, and sports often push family time out of the way. But, numerous studies over the years have shown that eating together as a family has major benefits for our kids.
Families Who Eat Together Are Healthier
We eat healthier food when we eat at home. We eat more vegetables and fruits and less saturated fat when we cook meals at home. A study by the American Society for Nutrition found that kids who eat family dinner had a lower body-mass index than kids who did not. We eat more slowly and consume smaller portions. The benefits also also extend to mental health.
At our dinner table, we share our highs and lows of the day. This helps us as parents to hear about our kids low times and explore how we can help or how our child can change a situation. It also helps us celebrate small things that we might not notice or know about each day.
Teens Are Less Likely to Engage in Risky Behavior
Studies have shown that teens who eat with their families are less likely to try illicit drugs and/or engage in high risk behaviors. They also were less likely to experience depression, stress and anxiety. While you would think that teens don’t want to be around family, they actually thrive with family connection.
Kids Earn Better Grades
Kids who eat with families get better grades all the way through high school. They have better vocabularies and learn the art of conversation and discussion. Family dinner provides the arena to learn problem solving and critical thinking.
Family Dinner Provides a Sense of Belonging
Traditions are extremely valuable to all of us. They provide a sense of safety, security, and belonging. Because belonging is one of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, family dinner provides an important place in a child’s movement toward self-actualization. A sense of belonging is extremely important to mental health, as well.
These are just a few of the many benefits of the family dinner. It is the place where connections are made, people interact, and discussions are held. It can be the place where your child learns his/her core values and how to make decisions. After this quarantine ends, and you go back to your busy lives, try to keep the family dinner tradition alive. It is one of the most important things you can do as a parent to raise successful kids.