The essence of the family meal has diminished in recent years, partially due to our busy schedules and constant obligations for work and school. “The times, they are a changing’”, as quoted by the great Bob Dylan. But let’s be serious here, family mealtime is an important part of family time in general. Over twenty years of research confirms this concept and indicates that sitting down for dinner together as a family is good for the brain, body and spirit.
There are plenty of reasons to sit down as a family for mealtime, dinner especially. Here, we’ll cover the top ten reasons to eat family dinner together.
1. Dinner Time Conversation Increases Child Vocabulary
Consider that researchers have found in young children that dinner time conversation increases vocabulary. Children that are involved in dinner conversation are more likely to pick up almost 10 times the amount of vocabulary words in comparison to those children that are read aloud to, only. Take note that children that have a large vocabulary read earlier and more easily than those with a lesser vocabulary.
Young children are not the only ones to benefit from family dinner time. Other researchers report a consistent association between family dinner and academic performance in school age children and teenagers.
2. Quality Play Time
Cooking together is a great way to bond with your family. It teaches quality skills that will carry over into adulthood for your children and it’s great for all of your senses. Not to mention it’s something beside the act of eating whereupon you may spend time together.
Play with recipes and fun foods that make the interactions comfortable and real.
3. It’s good for You, Too!
Consider that routine is good for adults too. And spending time with your spouse and/or your children every day gives you something to look forward to beside the daily grind. There is comfort to be had in knowing that you will have a plan for a family dinner each day.
4. Try New Activities for the Dinner Hour
Sometimes it can be difficult to keep the conversation light with all that goes on in our daily activities. Try to refrain from speaking about work or school at the dinner table. Better yet, try to refrain from negative commentary, period. Give your children the option of creating a musical playlist for the dinner setting, or set the table in a different order. New activities are good for behavioral development.
5. Better Diet Routine
Portion control is an important aspect of parenting. Eating together gives the parent the opportunity to offer sizeable amounts to the family. You’ll also be more inclined to eat at home as you notice difference in your waistlines in lieu of eating out, separately.
6. Good for Behavior
Many studies have been conducted on lowering high risk teen behaviors such as smoking, drinking, violence and problems at school or eating disorders and sexual activity. The research indicates that eating together as a family lowers the risk for these behaviors and increases the association of better behaviors too.
7. Family History in the Making
The dinner table can be the best place to tell stories and learn more about each other as a family. Research shows that children that know their family members better through stories of their day and histories tend to be more resilient and have better self esteem.
And let’s talk genealogy too… stories help us make sense of the world in which we live. Family history helps your family connect to each other.
8. Stay Connected
Discussion at the dinner table leads to better connection among family members. Try to go beyond ‘bland’ conversation and allow each person to speak about their day and perhaps their hopes for the next day. Keeps the conversation moving throughout the meal, even if you find difficult times of silence.
9. Save Money
Studies show that Americans spend more than forty percent of their food budget on meals outside the home. These same studies indicate that when we are presented with more food, we eat more food, which is what happens at restaurants – hence the portion control mentioned earlier. Nonetheless, eating out gets expensive and that forty percent of Americans spending their food budget outside the home are wasting more money than it’s worth.
10. Minimizes Stress
Supper time can be a great stress relief from a long and exhaustive day on levels from work to financial stress. Researchers found that sitting down to a family meal helped working moms reduce tension and strain from long hours at the office.
Remember that it doesn’t have to be every day – but it is doable. Family time is important and researchers and doctors alike recommend eating together at least twice per week. Whether it’s breakfast or dinner, but dinner is a better time for conversation and time in general.
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Enjoy Your Dinner!