Whether your family consists of two people or six, mealtime should be a chance to bond, relax and enjoy each other’s company. Research shows eating together has enormous benefits for children and teenagers. If dinner is impossible make it breakfast but focused family time is a must.
Here are 8 reasons to make it happen.
Communication & belonging
How else does everyone know what’s going on in the family unless you communicate. Meal -time with everyone in attendance is a chance to plan or to jointly participate in creative ideas, to know who is doing what and to develop family traits and shared jokes. Sharing daily news and happenings, giving encouragement, praise and recognition fosters warmth, security and love and helps family members have a sense of belonging.
Instil a tradition
A generation ago, everyone used to bake. Scones, cookies, desserts and cakes were all home made. An abundance of ready baked goods has almost made this redundant yet there is something so satisfying and homely about waiting for something to come out the oven. The smell of muffins wafting down the passage will automatically get everyone assembled in the kitchen. Pass down Grannies recipes, and make special dishes or foods a regular part of their lives knowing it will be a source of comfort and have positive memories for them when they are older.
Kids that only ever eat by themselves at the television or eat junk food often don’t have the opportunity to learn meal etiquette and social skills. A disciplined setting with a structured routine goes a long way in teaching valuable people skills. Children learn by example so make sure you display the kind of manners you would like your kids to have. Correct them gently and with love.
When you prepare a family meal, you have total control over what your family eats. This means you can make it nutritious and wholesome. Take-outs usually contain high levels of sodium and saturated fats, unnecessary in freshly prepared home cooking. Kids will tend to have less of a desire for fizzy drinks when eating together at home. You can ensure the right balance of fresh vegetables and salads are available. Besides that, home cooked food carries the energy of love, which boosts its digestive quality.
Participation and learning
Involve kids in grocery trips, planning meals, collecting recipes and preparing food. A surprising amount of people have never been exposed to cooking or learnt kitchen basics. Even if everyone works or is at school during the week, choose a weekend day to involve the family in the kitchen. This will also provide a source of pleasure and give kids something to look forward to. Tiny tots can spend hours playing with a piece of bread dough, slightly older kids love the responsibility of setting the table while a teen who has mastered their own dish gets immense satisfaction when everyone praises his or her skills.
Increase food appreciation
Mealtimes can be used to introduce a wider variety of food and expand taste appreciation. Introduce a new food alongside the usual but bear in mind it may take up to ten trials before a child will accept a new food so be patient. Try out a new vegetable or fruit, a different spice or textures. You can also introduce vegetarian or raw food meals.
Sense of identity
Differences in food preferences, in mood, activities and personality is highlighted when naturally, each individual is put into focus. Kids learn about themselves when family gets the opportunity to comment on idiosyncrasies and unique attributes. This generates confidence and creates a strong sense of self. It also teaches kids to accept differences in others.
Encourage positive behaviour
When teenagers know they have to present themselves at the dinner table every night, they are less likely to participate in destructive behaviours like smoking, drinking alcohol and taking drugs. Research confirms this with figures that show lower rates of destructive behaviour in families that eat together five or more times a week. A sense of responsibility to ‘show up’ and present yourself in an intimate setting makes it difficult to hide potentially harmful behaviour. This also includes things like anorexia and bulimia. Parents are able to monitor behaviour through close daily interaction.