Regular family meals offer children a sense of stability and give everyone a chance to catch up, get encouragement, and promote individual self-worth.
Family dinners? Who’s got the time? Only 1/3 of U.S. families eat dinner together most nights. Eating together is still one of the best ways for families to connect, and the long-term benefits are well worthwhile. When families eat together, everyone tends to eat more vegetables and fruit — and less fried food, soda, and fat, according to the research.
One of the simplest and most effective ways for parents to connect with their teens’ lives is by having frequent family dinners, according to Joseph Califano Jr., chairman and president of The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuseat Columbia University (CASA).
Family Meals Promote Healthy Habits
In addition to healthier food choices, eating dinner together promotes better grades, and keeps kids away from cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs. Regular family meals provide children with a sense of stability and give everyone a chance to catch up, get encouragement, and a bit of attention. The research even shows that children who eat meals as a family are less likely to become overweight.
Here are 10 tips to help you get the most out of your family dinners:
- Choose at least 1-2 nights per week when everyone can make it to the table at the same time. You can also do this activity in a restaurant. There are many restaurants in Accra where you can arrange family dinners.
- The timing matters very little—the idea is to meet over a meal, so breakfast, brunch, or lunch is fine too. The most important point is getting everyone to the table at the same time.
- Meals should begin only after everyone is seated
- Each member of the family should be encouraged to contribute to the meal, whether it’s planning the menu, preparing food, setting the table or helping to clear the table, or washing and drying the dishes afterward.
- Any disciplining or unpleasant topics, negative criticism, or judgment should be tabled for private time, and not raised during family dinners.
- 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.
- Ask specific questions like “who did you eat lunch with today?” or “what did you do at recess?”, which are more likely to start a conversation than questions like”How was your day?” that only needs a yes or no answer
- Encourage humor. It promotes bonding and laughter is something that can be shared across ages and creates a positive connection that lasts long after the meal.
- Use cloth napkins or give everyone a colorful straw to make the meal more special.
- Turn off the TV and radio and let the answering machine catch calls. Don’t permit any interruptions during this dedicated time. Even if family meals are resisted or fought against initially, with time they are likely to become a welcome break after an otherwise hectic day and may, in time, promote a better feeling and a deepening appreciation among each other since everyone has taken time to share a little of their day and learn a little about the rest of the family.
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