Sharing dinner as a family can be difficult. You’re working late, the kids have soccer practice, music lessons, and dance and karate classes; and no one can agree on what food they want!
Here are some easy ideas for making family dinner a tradition in your house:
Pick a Day and Stick To It. On Sunday, look at everyone’s schedule and decide which day will be most convenient for the whole family. Then, stick to that schedule – no excuses! Soon, you’ll have created a tradition that your whole family looks forward to.
Encourage Your Kids to Pick the Menu and Help Prepare. Have a few picky eaters in the house? Let your kids help plan the menu, and then take some weight off the cook by letting the kids help with the preparation. When everyone has a say, you’ll have fewer complaints; and the whole family will enjoy the evening more.
Turn Off the TV. Family dinner is a time to really connect – not tune out! Ask your children what they learned in school today, and tell them about your work day. This is also a great time to talk with your kids about what’s going on in your family and your neighborhood.
Keep Conversation Positive. Use this opportunity to encourage your children and to bring closure to their busy days. Also, make sure everyone gets a chance to speak and share. You’ll be amazed at how 30 or 45 minutes spent sharing a meal together can positively impact you and your children.
Why is eating together as a family very important? First, it’s a great way to connect with your kids. Second, research shows that the more often children eat dinner with the whole family; the less likely they are to engage in risky behaviors. Compared to teens who have frequent family dinners, those who have infrequent family dinners are three and a half times likelier to have abused prescription drugs; three and a half times likelier to have used an illegal drug other than marijuana or prescription drugs; three times likelier to have used marijuana; more than two and a half times likelier to have used tobacco; and one and a half times likelier to have drunk alcohol, according to a new report by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University and sponsored by The Safeway Foundation.
The report, The Importance of Family Dinners IV, also reveals that compared to 12- and 13-year olds who have frequent family dinners, those who have infrequent family dinners are six times likelier to have used marijuana; more than four and a half times likelier to have used tobacco; and more than two and a half times likelier to have used alcohol.
Among 14- and 15-year olds, those who have infrequent family dinners are three times likelier to have used marijuana and two and a half times likelier to have used tobacco compared to those who have frequent family dinners.
Among 16- and 17-year olds, those who have infrequent family dinners are twice as likely to have used marijuana and almost twice as likely to have used tobacco compared to those who have frequent family dinners.
So this fall, make time for family dinner at least once or twice a week. It’s a great way to connect and make memories that will last.