We are all busy with so many different things, but taking time for family dinner provides so many benefits to all members of your family!
5 Reasons to Eat Dinner with Family
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Growing up there is one thing that I could ALWAYS rely on. Dinner with family!
I grew up in a family of 8 with 1 brother and 4 sisters. There is one thing I can remember doing often together, that is having family dinner. No matter what was going on with sports, band, work or school we had dinner together at least four times a week.
A meal around the table with your family is something special. It could be a home-cooked meal, chicken nuggets that you have heated up, a pizza from the local pizza place, or your favorite food from the local restaurant down the street. The most important thing is that you are making time for a family dinner.
We have 5 reasons that family dinners are important for your family.
5 Reasons to Make Time for Family Dinner
Guaranteed Family Time
No matter who you ask there is always going to be a comment about how time goes by so quickly. Our children grow up in a flash and we don’t realize it until it has passed. There are often regrets about not spending enough time together.
Making family dinners a priority is guaranteed family time! Everyone has to eat, so why not do it together? This family time gives you an opportunity to check in with each other.
BUT WHAT IF IT’S AWKWARD? Ask Open-Ended Questions!
Not sure what to talk about during family dinners? Ask open-ended questions, about how the day went and what is on everyone’s mind. Hint: Open-ended questions require more than a yes or no answer. Still not sure what to talk about? Try conversation starter cards. These conversation starter cards take away some of the awkwardness if you aren’t used to having family dinners, or if you aren’t sure what to talk about.
It may be family dinner conversations may be awkward at first, but give them time and don’t give up on trying to talk as a family! I used conversation starter cards when I hosted a dinner for my son and their homecoming dates. It was a great way to break the ice. These conversation starter cards can do the same thing for your family.
Even children who can be reluctant to talk will take this opportunity to share their day with you. These conversations can be teaching moments, discussions about otherwise awkward topics or just plain fun. This is also a great “no phone zone” for undivided attention, and an opportunity to practice reducing screen time.
Children Feel Safe and are Better with Making Connections
Family routines and traditions help children to feel a sense of safety and belonging. When you are making connections as a family you will feel more unified as a family. When children feel safe and feel like they belong, the family dinner is the perfect place to be able to come for help and is a safe place for them.
Family dinners can help reduce the possibility of high-risk behaviors like drug and alcohol abuse. When an adolescent feels safety and security at home it increases self-esteem. When they are secure in their self-esteem the risk of unhealthy behavior is reduced. Family dinners provide a place to make connections with each other. Because you are developing a positive relationship with your kids, they may be more open to talking about things that are bothering them, rather than turning to drugs and alcohol to deal with hard things.
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Family dinners helps children get better grades. They have fewer symptoms of depression, especially adolescent girls. Having at least one nutritious meal a day, your children are less likely to become obese or develop eating disorders. We want to encourage healthy eating with our children and family dinners can be a great start to get them on that path!
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It Teaches Gratitude
There have been many moments as a parent where I thought “Wow, how did my child not know that?” Well, it is because I did not teach them! Sometimes we think that children just know the appropriate way to act.
News flash, they don’t! They need to be taught.
Dinner with family is the perfect platform to teach gratitude. From a very early age, they can learn to thank the person who prepared the meal. You can talk about the farmers who grow the food. Mention the grocery store workers who help you buy the food and the parent who cooked it. One way to teach gratitude is take a moment at dinner time and have everyone share what they are grateful for. We often do this at Thanksgiving, but you could practice this anytime.
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When they are old enough they can contribute, set the table, and help prepare the dinner. When they are involved in the process they can be even more grateful to those who make dinner happen. When a teenager prepares a meal they recognize the work that is involved and they appreciate the gratitude expressed for the meal they have prepared. Hopefully, they will be quick to express gratitude the next time a meal is prepared for them.
RELATED ARTICLE: How to Teach Your Child Gratitude
Table manners feel like a thing of the past. Family dinner can help children learn their please and thank yous. Family dinners are a safe place for our children to learn and practice table manners. Learning that everyone needs to be seated before you start to eat is a valuable lesson in manners.
Gentlemen can be taught to wait for the ladies to sit before taking their seat. Even assisting those ladies with their chair like the good ol’ days. Keeping elbows off the table and wiping your mouth with a napkin may impress a potential marriage partner one day.
RELATED ARTICLE: 5 Tips for Raising Polite Children
You can even make a special dinner and teach about fancy dishes and silverware. This makes everyone at the table feel special, and it can change the tone of your family dinner time!
If you are a family that prays, family dinner is a wonderful place to teach about prayer. This is another way to express gratitude for the meal, the people that prepared the meal, and for each other.
Cognitive and Social Development
Dinner with family is a great time to teach and practice conversation. This is not only great for language skills but also development in children. Learning to socialize and have healthy conversation helps build brain function. You can help children learn new words and answer questions appropriately.
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Learning to function in society happens in the home and dinner with family is a valuable tool. Conflict resolution can also be taught at dinner time. This builds a foundation for healthy relationships and learning to get along with others. Learning how to listen and engage in meaningful conversation can set your child up to be socially successful.
Now you know why family dinner is important, so let’s make it happen!
Eating as a family every night is probably a very lofty goal, so start with two dinners a week and see if you can work your way up. Pick nights that you know everyone will be there. Even if you are sitting down to dinner a little earlier, or even later than usual. You are making an effort to be together, that is what matters. Go get your calendar out and start planning family dinners tonight!
How do you make it a priority to have family dinner?
LOOKING FOR MORE IDEAS ON STRENGTHENING YOUR FAMILY?
- Things All Happy Families Have In Common
- The Benefits of Taking a Family Vacation
- The Benefits of Spending Quality Time with Family and Having Family Night
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Bridget is on of our interns currently finishing up a degree in Marriage and Family Studies. With 8 children and 1 grandchild, she strives to keep her family happy and healthy. She loves to read and if there is an opportunity for it, you will find her at the beach!