I don’t know a single person in my life who cooks every meal of the day, 7 days a week. It’s no secret that even families with one parent who stays at home do not have the time and energy to spend their hours in the kitchen, day in and day out. Even more common are those of us eat out several times a week, order in, or just eat leftovers while rushing to the car. All this craziness has lead us to often eating alone or distracted. In fact, a recent article in The Atlantic states that the average American eats 1 meal with their family less than 5 times a week. It seems the days of sitting down and eating meals together have become few and far between, and with it, some benefits we may not have realized we are losing.
Recent years have produced a plethora of research on the benefits of sharing meals together with loved ones, that demonstrate both emotional and physical outcomes. The simplicity of sitting and eating together is much more than that, and you’d be surprised to learn just how far reaching the effects of family meals can be. If you feel it’s time to take back the dinner table, then continue reading to see just how important a few meals can be to your family.
1. Fosters A Sense Of Belonging
Children learn a sense of belonging first from their parents. We demonstrate love and an inclusion into a family unit that they will carry into their childhood, using it to form relationships with others. By coming together for meal times, we model that sharing time with each other is important and how we respect and show love.
2. Reduced Risk For Obesity
One of the biggest hindrances to eating together are fast food restaurants. They are quick, convenient and are most often used when your family is busy and not together. The majority of the time they are also unhealthy, despite being inexpensive. On the contrary, even meals prepared at home without organic foods are healthier than their fast food alternative the majority of the time. You are most likely not frying as many foods, and you surely aren’t allowing endless refills at the soda machine.
3. Increases Communication & Vocabulary
Unless you are all confined to your devices during dinner, it goes without saying that talking and sharing over meal time is a given. If you ARE one of those families who take your phones to the table, do yourself a favor right now and just unplug for the 30-45 minutes it takes to eat. It’s been shown that a child’s vocabulary increases even MORE as a result of conversions over the dinner table then by reading. Additionally, you get to share in your spouse and child’s day by having open and active communication every day.
4. Better Grades & School Attendance
Research has shown that children who eat meals with their family at least 5 times a week are a lower risk for school attendance problems and have better grades than those who do not share as many meals with their families. They are also less likely to struggle with drug abuse and run into problems such as teen pregnancy. Kids gain higher self esteem through regular and open communication with their parents, and parents who are involved with their kids can spot signs of struggles with drugs and other issues much quicker.
5. Modeling Manners & Social Skills
Parents are the first teachers for their children, and that includes teaching manners and how to behave at the dinner table. There once was a time that food was not so readily available at 10 grocery stores in a 1 mile radius, and people used meal time to be truly thankful for the meal they were consuming. Dinner can be a great time to restore honor and thankfulness for having food on the table. It’s also a wonderful way to teach table and communication manners, such as listening to others, waiting until the entire table is served food, and how to start conversations.
There are many influences our children will be exposed to while growing up, but teaching from the dinner table is one only parents can control. It’s easy, and pretty tasty too.