People today are living busy, fast-paced lives and because of this, simple family regiments like a family eating together have fallen by the wayside. Making time for dining together is something that families should consider because the practice has so many rewards and benefits.
Benefits to a Family Eating Together
There are so many benefits to holding a consistent family mealtime that extend far past a bit of social connection. Many of the pros to family eating together come in the form of rewards that are not immediately recognizable.
Increase in Emotional Safety
Bullying is a major problem for today's youth, and parents sometimes struggle in detecting when their child is a bully's target. Holding family meals may decrease the effects of bullying on a child. Family meals won't stop a bully from approaching your kid, but you will probably hear about the situation sooner because of family mealtime compared to when you might catch wind of a situation otherwise.
Staying in the Know
Parents work, and kids are busy with school, sports, and friends, so finding space in life to sit down and actually watch and listen to your own child is limited. Mealtimes give parents the opportunity to notice things about their children that they otherwise might miss. Mealtimes spent together allow parents to notice signs of sadness, anger, depression, and anxiety in kids.
Decreased Risk of Unhealthy Habits
As children grow older, parents become concerned about them engaging in unhealthy behaviors like drinking and drugs. Teens who regularly dine with their parents are at a decreased risk of drug and alcohol usage. It is noted that these same populations were less likely to engage in those dangerous behaviors after leaving home.
Provides Opportunities for Life Skills
Parents often purchase food, prepare it, and serve it, but at some point, kids tend to get in on the action. The concept of dining as a family becomes an opportunity and experience for families to teach their child how to shop for food and create dishes, providing kids with necessary domestic life skills that are often lacking.
Keeps Family Traditions Alive
In today's bustling, fast-paced world, it can be hard to make time to honor family traditions and cultural heritage. Eating together is a perfect way to infuse family and cultural heritage into a time of togetherness. During these family meals, parents, children, and extended family practice and celebrate their traditions.
Improves Academic Success in Children
Kids who dine with family tend to have higher grades and stronger academic success compared to children who do not participate in family dinners. According to one University of Illinois study, children whose families ate together also performed better on standardized tests.
Lowers Obesity Rates
Eating as a family may help lower obesity rates. When families sit down to dine, they are avoiding chowing down while on the go. They are able to create thoughtful, healthier meals in their homes, thus steering clear of unhealthy fast foods. For kids, family mealtime is a space where they observe and learn about healthy options, portion control, and pacing.
Increases Vocabulary in Preschoolers
Family mealtime is an excellent time to talk to kids. Aside from using this time to see what your family has been up to, family mealtimes provide a perfect opportunity for parents to provide vocabulary lessons to their kids. Children who eat with their families are six times more likely to know rare vocabulary words compared to children who do not engage in family meals.
There is evidence that having meals together as a family vastly improves the self-esteem of children and adults. If the mealtime environment is positive, children share their day's experiences, thoughts, and feelings, and often receive love, attention, and advice. This boosts their self-esteem. Simply making a meal and sitting together shows kids that they are cared for. Parents reap emotional benefits as well. By creating meals and giving their undivided attention to their families, they feel like better parents and people.
Creates Improved Structure and Routine
Structure and routine are important to children, and holding scheduled family mealtimes helps to create a predictable routine for children. They learn to expect when a meal is, manage their time regarding expected meals and know that they can count on that togetherness time. Positive and predictable routines and structures give kids a sense of security.
Fostering Dining Standards
What constitutes dining together? In order to reap the benefits of feasting as a family, certain dining standards and practices should be followed.
- Dining space and company fosters healthy conversation and interaction
- No cellular devices, television, toys, or other physical distractions should be in the space where family meals are taken.
- Dining time should include teachable moments. Examples include lessons on politeness, manners, speaking correcting, listening skills, eye contact, and vocabulary.
A Lifetime of Benefits
Carving out this family time might feel like more work on the front end, but the end results will be well worth the effort. Dining together as a family offers benefits that will last a lifetime.