Would you be interested in knowing how you could help reduce the risk of your child using alcohol, drugs, and smoking, eating junk food, being overweight, and developing an eating disorder? How about learning how to improve your child’s social skills and overall character development, improve your family’s communication skills and development of family traditions, help your child do better in school, and have fewer behavioral problems?
The research shows that all of these things are possible through something as simple and as old-fashioned as eating dinner together regularly as a family. When surveyed, more than 80% of today’s families consider eating dinner together very important, while only about 1/3 of families actually do so on a regular basis. This represents a 33% decrease over the last 3 decades. Even more disturbing is that, as children get older, this value decreases.
So, how can we make consistent family mealtime a reality?
Plan ahead – Remember the old adage “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
a. Decide ahead of time what will be served for the week
b. Shop with these meals in mind rather than running through the store, hungry, grabbing things that may or may not make for a healthy meal. Use a shopping list to help the process.
Get the kids involved in the shopping and/or cooking process.
a. There are lots of valuable lessons to be learned at the grocery store – budgeting, label reading, addition and subtraction are just a few.
b. Kids are much more willing to explore new foods and variety in their diet if the help with the planning and preparation.
Incorporate family meal traditions into your plan.
Think back for a moment to your favorite childhood memory. You’ll find that the common theme among people sharing their favorite memories from childhood is that it usually involves something that was simple and that was repeated over and over again. This is what Lorle Campos, founder of Once Upon a Family, discovered as she did extensive research on family and family traditions. What our kids want and will cherish are the things that are simple and repeatable…. rather than always being new and different, or elaborate. It’s wonderful news!
a. Apply this concept to your meal plan and repeat it on a monthly basis throughout the season.
b. Try family meal traditions such as Pizza Fridays, Taco Tuesdays, Kids Pick, or Breakfast for Dinner.
Take a hard look at your family’s schedule.
Alvin Rosenfeld, MD has termed our society’s current parenting approach “Hyperparenting”. It is the endless running from activity to activity in hopes of giving our kids every available opportunity. Instead of helping them though, the studies are showing that our kids are suffering from an unusually high level of stress and the resulting physical ailments as well as ADD and depression. Things like family mealtime, time for unstructured activities, and imaginative play are being squeezed out.
A quote from “What the Research Tells Us About Family Meals” drives home the point:
“We have only begun to scratch the surface of the significance and importance of eating family meals together. But there’s one thing for sure…it’s more important than ever for families to sit down for a meal together…If you think you’re too busy to eat together as a family, think again, there are too many reasons not to”
I wish your family many cherished memories spent laughing, learning, and sharing around the dinner table!
* DVO welcomes your kitchen hints and cooking or nutrition questions! Email us and we'll post your hints and Q/A's in upcoming newsletters! *