Sitting down at the dinner table can positively affect you and your family more than you might realize, so reap the benefits of a family meal.
Take a look at any parentâ€™s calendar or to-do list and youâ€™ll wonder how they possibly fit everything in during the course of a week. From the daily shuttle service to school and back, to after school activities like sports, dance, gymnastics, and more, there are countless reasons to simply grab food on the way home from a fast food or quick service restaurant â€“ namely, the simplicity factor. But the side effects of this choice leaves families eating separately, and that can lead to a host of issues. The following is a list of reasons why reigniting the family tradition of a sit down meal each night can benefit you and your family:
- Improve communication: At what other time throughout the day can you sit down with your entire immediate family â€“ everyone captive in their chairs, to spark a conversation about their day? Studies have shown that kids who sit down with their parents for dinner at least five nights per week display a lower inclination to abuse drugs, drink alcohol, and display criminal behavior.
- Drive healthier eating habits: Home-cooked meals are generally healthier than the â€œdrive-byâ€ choices at quick service institutions. Even sit down meals at chain restaurants are often saddled with high-fat contents, over the top sodium levels, and other unhealthy attributes. Cooking at home allows you to control what your family eats.
- Demonstrate etiquette: Good eating habits are important, but it is vital that you and your family keep close reins on tableside etiquette. While the dinner table experience shouldnâ€™t necessarily be one of heavy-handed manners and Elizabethan-era rigidity, kids should learn to keep elbows off the table, chew with their mouths closed, speak at an appropriate volume, and ask to be excused from the table. These good manners will transcend the dinner table and present themselves later on in life during business lunches and dinners and other formal social events.
- Focus on self-reliance: Your family, seeing you cook at least five nights per week, will pay attention to the fact that you are able to shop for food, construct a meal, and feed a family â€“ all without assistance from the local restaurant or fast food establishment. This is an important life skill that kids can really glean from their parents, so involve your spouse or kids in the cooking chores and theyâ€™ll benefit from a life full of self-reliance in the kitchen.
- Explore ethnic cuisine: Eating at home allows you to affordably sample various foods from around the world. Have a Mexican night, an Asian-themed dinner, or an Italian-food focused culinary exploration and give your kids a chance to expand their palates. This diversity in food will pay off later in life, and it allows your kids to become worldly at a younger age. Taking time to gather food from a local source, like a food co-op or farmerâ€™s market, will reinforce the idea of fresh and diverse food sources.
Dinnertime traditions and family-style eating goes way beyond simply â€œknowing where your kids are.â€ Rather, this is a time in which you can discover who your kids are. Conversations about school, their extra-curricular activities, their wants and desires, and the things that motivate them to succeed provide kids with a sense of security. Youâ€™ll find that the health and wellness benefits of a family dinner tradition are real.