Make Family Dinners A Habit

April 2, 2008 at 9:21 pm Leave a comment

Dinners Connect Families Well Beyond the Meal

Does the idea of trying to get everyone around the table for a family dinner make you queasy? Only 1/3 of U.S. families eat dinner together most nights. However, eating together is one of the best ways for families to connect and with long-term benefits.

Frequent family dinners reduces the likelihood that teens will smoke cigarettes, use marijuana or drink alcohol, according to researchers at The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. Supported by findings from their 10th annual back to school survey, parents should identify and work to overcome any barriers that prevent their families from eating together at least 5 times a week. Late work hours, long commutes, and after-school activities compromise parental involvement make these dinners difficult but all the more necessary to foster parental involvement. For more on the survey, go to:
http://www.casacolumbia.org/Absolutenm/articlefiles/380-2005_family_dinners_ii_final.pdf
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Regular family meals provide children of all ages with a sense of stability, and give everyone a chance to catch up, get some attention, share news, and receive encouragement and support.Here are 9 tips to help you get the most out of your family dinner:

  1. Choose at least 1-2 nights per week when everyone can make it to the table at the same time.
  2. The timing matters very little—the idea is to meet over a meal, so breakfast, brunch or lunch is fine, too. When and how often can depend upon whatever works best for your family.
  3. Family meals should begin with the planning so each member can contribute, whether its selecting the menu, preparing the food, setting the table or washing the dishes afterwards. For some, it may work better to rotate the responsibilities or assign one family member per week to assist.
  4. Any disciplining or unpleasant topics, negative criticism, or judgment should be tabled for private time, and not raised during family meals.
  5. Find topics for discussion that involve every family member. Participation makes each person feel more valued, and it introduces different perspectives and ideas. The art of conversation such as taking turns and speaking up are important social skills that are best practiced at home.
  6. Specific questions that draw in children like “How many minutes did you play in the soccer game on Saturday?” are more likely to trigger conversation than general (yes or no) questions like”How was your day today?”
  7. Encourage laughter, it’s good medicine and a social equalizer.
  8. Change the meal location to say, an afternoon picnic, breakfast by the fire, or dinner under the stars. This will create lasting memories.
  9. Don’t permit any interruptions during this dedicated family time. Remove all cellphones from earshot. Turn off the TV and radio. And, let the answering machine pick up if it rings while you’re eating.

Even if family meals are resisted or fought against initially, with time they are likely to become a welcome break from an otherwise hectic life.

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Entry filed under: Eating Together Matters. Tags: , , , , , , .

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