That is right, doing this one simple thing will help your children avoid: drugs, obesity, alcohol, cigarettes, depression, inadequate grades, eating disorders, and teen pregnancies.
Today our families are under attack from about every walk of life. Full schedules, media, computers, drugs, etc. are all taking away from family time and diminishing bonds of unity.
How do we combat this constant onslaught of the family? There are multiple ways, but one of the most influential things we can do is establishing and maintaining a daily family meal.
Multiple studies from various sources have proven that families that do not participate in regular family meals have children that are MORE inclined to: give into peer pressures, experiment with drugs, drink alcohol, participate in theft, develop obesity and other eating disorders, have bad grades in school, suffer from lack of self-esteem, and experience teen pregnancy. * Sources are at the end of article.
A report by CASA stated, “Eating family dinners at least five times a week drastically lowers a teen’s chance of smoking, drinking, and using drugs. Teens who have fewer than three family dinners a week are 3.5 times more likely to have abused prescription drugs and to have used illegal drugs, 3 times more likely to have used marijuana, more than 2.5 times more likely to have smoked cigarettes, and 1.5 times more likely to have tried alcohol, and 20% more likely to get C’s or lower on their report cards.”
Family meals strengthen the relationship between husband and wife. It is just as important for parents to bond with each other as it is to bond with their children. A strong marriage is very beneficial for children and teens.
Further, family meals save money. A meal outside the home costs on average $8.00 a meal. Inside the home meals cost on average $4.50 a meal. With a family of 5 that is a $6,387.50 savings a year!
Quality time, conversation, humor, fun, education, and nourishment can all be experienced at family meal time.
Ways to have a successful family dinner/meal:
Simplify. Quick, easy, and healthy are the food fundamentals that I include at meal making. There are days where my cooking could be restaurant worthy and there are the days where I resort to a freezer meal. Freezer meals allow me time and sanity of preparing a well-balanced meal on the spot. I try to prepare freezer meals myself and will throw it in the deep freezer where we will eat it months down the road.
Turn the technology off. Technology can take away form important conversation with our family especially at dinnertime. Try making a rule to TURN IT OFF during dinner and not bring any of it to the dinner table. This will do wonders for your family.
Don’t stress about the clean-up. If the kids are old enough, make them clean up. Growing up we had a family dinner honestly just about every single night. My mom knew that she needed to teach us how to work and contribute so she made the meals (Monday-Friday) and had a rule that the kids cleaned up. She taught us as soon as we could carry a plate how to clear the table, wash and rinse the dishes, load the dishwasher and start it. Much to our dissatisfaction we each had one, two, or even three nights a week of kitchen duty (depending on how many of us kids were still living at home) and we could not go to bed until the kitchen was sufficiently clean.
If your kids are not old enough, then find a system that works for you. It sometimes helps if I empty the dishwasher before the meal and my husband and I put the dishes straight into it after. Other nights I leave the non-perishables and dishes for the morning and enjoy the rest of the night with my family. Not stressing too much about the clean-up is the key (at least for me) to wanting to continue to have a sit down family dinner.
Don’t allow “busy-ness” to derail you. I remember what it was like with 5 kids (7 total in our household). Most of the time it was hectic. Everyone was going in all different directions. We were all involved in sports, some of us in student government, volunteer activities, etc. My parents were for the most part flexible with our schedules but they tried to make sure that we could all at least attend 4 or more of the family dinners each week. And based on the data they were correct to prioritize our family dinners for the most part over other activities. Family dinners have more of a positive influence on children and teens than extracurricular activities are shown to have!
Don’t Give Up. Sometimes you may wonder if the dinners are doing any good. Just keep plugging along. Count each dinner as a victory in your family life. If you miss a dinner, do yourself a favor and don’t feel guilty. Resolve to have a dinner the next day and keep plugging along.
Conversation. If your family doesn’t converse easily, it may take a while, but conversation will begin to flow quickly once family meals have been consistent for a while. Until then, having topics, themes or asking your kids a repetitive question each night may help. Every evening we sat down to eat we: blessed the food, ate, chatted, and then my parents would ask us what we learned that day in school.
Be Observant and Listen to your Family. Family dinner is often the time when individual problems are made known. If a child or parent is struggling but trying to hide it, typically the problem will be made known through repetitive family meals. This may lead to getting support and love from the other family members and proper help.
Strong family bonds are a main part in making a life ‘rich’ and having daily family dinners is a major way to strengthen those bonds and help children and teens get a great start in life.