by Ashley Corbaley
I recently watched an advertisement that had a powerful message. This video began with ten married couples that were asked the question: “If you could have dinner with anyone living or dead who would you choose?” After several moments of deep thought, each person answered. The interviewees chose people such as: Marilyn Monroe, Justin Bieber, and Nelson Mandela to be their dinner guests. After they gave their answers, the couples were taken to a room with a TV where they watched their children respond to the same question. The children’s responses came as quite a shock to their parents. If the children could chose to have dinner with anyone in the world they would want to have dinner with their mom and dad.
Eating dinner as a family might seem next to impossible in your household. With everyone in the family having such a busy schedule and the distractions of electronic devices threatening to interfere with meaningful family conversations, it might seem like too much of a hassle to call the family together for dinner. Let us not forget the work that goes into making dinner and cleaning up. Despite all of the potential challenges, family mealtimes have been scientifically proven to provide many benefits to all family members.
- Eating together provides time that kids can count on spending with their parents.
- Kids who share at least four meals with their families do better on achievement tests than those who eat three or fewer meals with their families.
- Kids’ thinking skills and linguistic development improve. (This may be due to the longer conversations that tend to take place during family meals.)
- Family meals contribute to a child’s healthy development even more than play or story time.
- Teens who eat more meals with their families are less likely to be depressed.
- Teenagers who share more family meals are less likely to take drugs.
- Eating more meals together also results in teens’ being more motivated to learn.
- Teens who share more family meals experience better relationships with their families and friends.
- Kids who are in the habit of eating with their families eat more vegetables.
- Kids who share family meals drink less soda.
- Put electronic devices away. I have heard of some families who have a basket in the middle of the table to deposit their devices in. Calls and texts can wait.
- Turn off the TV. There is nothing wrong with pulling out the TV trays and gathering to watch a family favorite TV program every once in awhile, but try to make those more of special occasions. There is nothing better than sitting down to dinner around the kitchen table with nothing but each other and a delicious meal to keep you entertained.
- Get everyone involved! Cooking and cleaning go faster if everyone is helping out in one way or another. Working together to create a meal also gives a sense of accomplishment and pride, creating further investment in the meal and promoting longer attention spans at the table.
- Talk to each other! Discuss how your days went and ask about theirs. Talk about one another’s interests. Laugh and joke together. Listen to one another.
- Set realistic goals. If there is an aspect of family mealtime that you wish to improve, set small realistic goals to help you get there. Don’t expect a small child to sit at the table for an hour. Find what works for your family and if you see a need for improvement, work towards it slowly.
- Plan and prepare nutritious meals for your whole family to enjoy. There is an infinite number of recipes out there to try for a family meal! Whether the struggle is with a picky eater or a short amount of time, you are sure to find several recipes to fit your style and feed your family.
If you could eat dinner with anyone in the world whom would you choose? I might not know how I would respond to that question, but I do know that I am having dinner with my family tonight, and that is most important dinner guest we can ever have.