Consider family dinners to be another tool in your goal of building a positive family culture. The real benefit is the chance they provide for your family to slow down, get together face-to-face, talk without distractions, cement your values, create a feeling of support, and build loving bonds.
These benefits occur to families who not only try to regularly have dinner (or another meal) together, but who approach these chances to break bread in an intentional way. (www.artofmanliness.com)
According to research, “the “magic” of family dinners is grounded in research on the physical, mental and emotional benefits of regular family meals. Some of the specific benefits of family dinners are:
- Better academic performance
- Higher self-esteem
- Greater sense of resilience
- Lower risk of substance abuse
- Lower risk of teen pregnancy
- Lower risk of depression
- Lower likelihood of developing eating disorders
- Lower rates of obesity
Depending on the ages of your children here are some ideas for family meal time!
Just Married: Start this routine in your marriage. Make sure to carve out time daily to sit down and eat together. Date Night or eating at home, this is the time for you to connect with each other.
Newborn-2 yr old: During this time, keep committed to your daily meal together. Think about who is going to take on making the meals and who is going to feed the baby. You are needed 24/7 in this stage and keeping connected can be a challenge. You will start to make baby a part of your meal when you can pull up the high chair to the family table. Talking begins!
3 yr old-5 yr old: This is the stage where your children are so excited to tell you about their day! Make them a part of helping with the cooking, setting the table, or dishes. With responsibility comes confidence. This is a great time to tell family stories. Your children will love to hear about your childhood.
Elementary School Age: They have a lot to tell you from their day at school. Sometimes they will respond that they did “Nothing” but just keep asking specific questions. “What did you do in art class today?” Also, a great conversation starter is from the card game “FAMILY TALK“. Silly and fun questions that you can use in any stage! Continue telling stories about your childhood and memories from your own family vacations, holidays, and moments.
Middle School and High School: Family meals can get hard to keep in this stage. Extra curricular activities and friends start to make their way into the family. Keep working on staying connected! Ask about their day. Be there to listen. Invite their friends to stay for dinner. These are your last days of daily family meals together before they leave.
Grown and Flown: Some families connect during the holidays or special occasions. If you live close by, have a Sunday meal together. Now you are back to just the two of you. Adjusting to cooking for two and a quieter household can take time. You did it! Grown and flown.
I hope this gives you inspiration to consider a daily meal together with your family!