Sharing meals as a family comes with big benefits for kids and teens, but traditional meal times are hard to make happen. Think outside the box when it comes to eating as a family, like sharing breakfast, taking food to the ballfields or having a picnic.
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As a parent, you get them to practice on time, and make sure their uniform is clean. You help them with homework and drive them around like a taxi service. Parents make some significant sacrifices to help kids succeed- so much so that it’s easy to forget their basic needs. Some weeks are filled with so much activity, the most important behavior that can happen in your home gets forgotten- family mealtime.
The Benefits of Family Meals
Although it can seem impossible at times, getting together as a family is important for the well-being of children. Kids, especially teenagers, may roll their eyes for insisting on eating together, but one day, this shared experience will be what he or she remembers most. Sitting down as a family is a message to children that they matter and is an opportunity to share stories, memories and experiences from the day. There is nothing more important that.
If that’s not enough, research continues to support family mealtime for other reasons. Numerous studies have found that eating with others, particularly family, is associated with a greater consumption of healthy foods. Increased family meals have also been linked to better grades, better self-esteem and less risky behaviors in kids and teens. Shared family meals that include positive and supportive conversation leave kids and teenagers feeling safe and cared for.
Think Outside The Box To Eat As A Family
I know what you’re thinking – you’re never home as a family. Family dynamics and behaviors have evolved from years ago. A traditional dinnertime does not exist for many families, so you have to think differently. Pick a time of day that works for your family, such as 8:00 pm, after practice or when dad gets home from a late day at the office. A meal does not have to be hot. Dad can have dinner while the rest of the family has a mini-meal, snack or cup of tea/water. If 8:00 pm does not work, make breakfast your family mealtime or have a picnic at the ball-field. The important thing is that you do what you can to prioritize family mealtime.
If you can’t make a family meal happen daily – don’t stress. Just try to set aside 15-20 minutes to gather together and talk about the day. The most important thing is that kids perceive family time as important to you. In the meantime, schedule a family date night or pick a day of the week that you can make work. Most importantly, be sure that your family meal doesn’t gets moved to the bottom of the priority list. If something comes up during that time, make that, not the family, wait. You might be shocked by how much respect you receive when you say, “I can’t make it; I have a date with my family.”
Other Fun Food Activities And Resources
You can also share family time by cooking together as a family. Make a meal together, or challenge the family to a friendly pizza competition.
Remember, family mealtime is what will be remembered years from now. Don’t wait for an available night to be together- make the night available.
In my book, Fueling Young Athletes, I share more about the importance of family mealtime and why it is important to discuss topics outside of sports with young athletes. I also provide solutions for other barriers I’ve have heard for making family mealtime a reality.
If you want to learn more on this important topic, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has loads of information and shares tips on family meal times. Also available to help American families achieve the goal of one more meal at home each week, the FMI Foundation has developed a website showing ways that food retailers and brands are working together to make this a movement. This topic is that important.
Do you have a unique way to share meal time with your family? Share it in the comments below.