It can be difficult enough getting the entire family together, especially now that anyone can be reached at any time thanks to cell phone technology. However, parents should look into implementing a mandatory family meal time at least once per week. Cell phones, televisions, and iPods should be switched off and everyone should gather around the dining room table for a meal and a lively chat. Not only will this result in establishing a better bond between parents and children, it will also encourage children and parents alike to practice better eating habits.
There are a myriad of things that can make having a family meal difficult late work days, afterschool activities, and a general aversion to switching off the television all work against sitting down together for a quiet dinner. However, research has shown that families that dine together often tend to experience better health. Families tend to eat more vegetables and fruits when together, according to WebMD.com, whereas families who often eat alone are more likely to overindulge in fatty and sugary foods. This is likely due to the fact that when you dine together, you know that others can see exactly what you eat, so you are more conscious about what foods you put onto your plate as well as your portion sizes. Children who eat with their parents also know that they cannot get away with eating only potato chips for dinner, so they will consume more nutritious options at the dinner table than if they were alone. In addition, your example at the dining room table can affect your children's view of healthy dinner options. If you regularly eat healthily, your children will grow up to view healthy eating habits as a normal, everyday thing rather than a chore or anomaly.
Another benefit of eating dinner together is the opportunity to talk to one another face-to-face instead of through a phone call or text message. When you regularly speak with your children and express interest in their day-to-day lives, your children will be more likely to respect you as well as develop a healthy sense of self-esteem because they feel valued. Building a strong and trusting relationship with your children at an early age is critical to ensure that they feel comfortable talking to you later in life. Hosting regular family meal times is a great way to do just that.
While it can be difficult making every night a family meal night, there are things you can do to make getting together easier. First, set a simple goal of how many times you want to meet per week. Start low, such as once or twice each week, and go from there. You may find that you and your children will begin getting together for dinner without even being prompted! Keeping the dinner simple and easy-to-prepare is another way to make meal times more enjoyable and attainable. Something like a roasted chicken with roasted vegetables is easy to put together, tasty, and nutritious. Even if you are running late and have to pick up something on the way home, you can still make the family dinner a good one. All in all, make the experience a fun and casual one so that everyone will look forward to dinner and quality time each night.