This year has been quite different for our family. My two teenage sons have been spending more time with their friends, which meant that they were not usually around for dinner. But when they are there, and the whole family eats together, I am reminded of the reason why preparing and cooking food for them is worth everything. At this phase of my life, perhaps more than others, I have realized the good in having dinner together as a family.
Family dinners are essential in more ways than one. I am a nutritionist, and I know the importance of healthy and equally flavorful food choices. However, I also am aware of the essence of taking the time to eat together and the advantages that result from gathering as a family. Dinners, mainly, are much more than just what’s on the table. It’s actually about having an environment of love, closeness, practice, and conversations. I think that family dinners have a significant effect on childhood development and close family connections.
Family dinners improve connections with each other.
Most families have hectic schedules. Parents work, children are off to school, and all of them have extracurriculars that eat up most of their time. Their activities don’t end at 5 PM, and they do not have an extra two hours to cook and eat dinner. However, we find ways to use our phones for two hours and even more. With all the hustle and bustle, family dinners are a perfect time to put a stop to all other activities and responsibilities and establish connections with one another.
As a mom of two teenage sons, I cherish the time that I spend bonding at the dinner table. Dinners are among the few times that we are all together as a family. According to research, only 50% of modern families have meals together 3 or 4 times a week. It also reveals that a lot of meals take only about 20 minutes and are usually spent in front of the television. Try using family dinners to bond face to face with your kids. Set aside your gadgets and other distractions and concentrate on building relationships with your family members.
Family dinners encourage conversation.
Sensible and consequential conversations require skill, and family dinners are a wonderful practice ground, particularly if you have kids who are not used to make conversation. When you spend time together with your family around the dining table, all family members have the chance to ask about how their day went or to talk about topics that are significant to the family, or to chat about whatever. In our home, our dinners are a channel through which we can listen to our children talk about their activities in school, what they’ve been learning, and how they’re coping with their everyday lives.
If you find it difficult to begin or make ongoing conversation, try starting with a new topic, like sharing what’s good and bad about your day. Start with you or dad, and then the children take their turns too. This habit has helped us open up to each other and become comfortable at the thought of confiding to each other. In some families, if this doesn’t work, they are advised to utilize conversation cards that have topic lists or only games that serve as conversation starters.
Family dinners may inspire us to eat healthily.
As a mom, I have control over the type of food choices that my family consumes. I take my time in planning for them because I want them to be healthy, so I prepare meals that are balanced in terms of nutrition and flavor. It has been proven in studies that family dinners contribute to lowering the risk of obesity in kids. This is because when children eat together with the rest of the family, they are inclined to eating healthy food and also avoid smoking and other illicit drugs. Additionally, some people don’t find their food tasty because they eat fast when they’re on the go. Having dinner at home with the presence of loved ones gives you the privilege to enjoy home-cooked food and made with love.
It’s who you’re with, not what’s really on the table.
In my experience, you don’t need to be a chef or an expert food planner to be able to come up with a lovely family dinner. Much of what’s excellent with eating together is who you’re with, not the food on the table. There are a lot of recipes you can find in books and even online. Just as long as you give them something healthy and all of you come together at the table and eat, you have been successful in your goal to find meaning in your family dinners. Perhaps one night, you can prepare a simple combination of mushroom soup and some steamed fish, while during the weekends, you can entice the teenagers to be present by prepping their favorite dish – pasta, fries, and baked chicken!
I truly cherish our dinners with the family. I feel and witness the bond that these dinners have blessed us with, and I am so grateful for every single time that all of us get to sit down with our faces seeing each other, smiling happily, and eager to connect.