If you’re like most Americans, you’re making plans for a pretty important meal later on this week. And no, we’re not talking about 4 a.m. corn dogs in the Kohl’s parking lot Black Friday morning.
Thanksgiving dinner is a wonderful time to sit down and connect with family and friends. But if holiday meals seem to be the only times your family ever sits and eats together, you might want to rethink your family’s dining habits.
It turns out that sitting down to regular dinners as a family can help your kids in a gravy boatful of ways. Research studies on the subject have shown that kids from families who have dinner together at least five days a week acquire all sorts of benefits, including:
- Larger vocabularies starting at age two
- Higher reading scores in elementary through high school
- More motivation in school
- Better relationships with peers
- A more positive perception of the parent-child relationship
- Healthier eating habits, including eating more fruits and vegetables and less soda
- Fewer instances of eating disorders and obesity
- Less drinking, drug-use and destructive behavior
- Better emotional well-being and life satisfaction
So as crazy as it may sound, doing this one simple thing kind of helps your kid with everything. And these benefits apply to kids of all ages, genders, family types, income levels – whatever. So if you’re not already breaking bread together, you really owe it to your family to start.
But what if corralling the whole crew for dinner five days a week seems like an impossible task? Try these tips to help make it happen:
Skip a show
If you think you don’t have time for a family dinner, but find yourself watching Dancing With the Quote-Unquote Stars, America’s Got a Modicum of Talent, or The Real Housewives of Someplace Where Adult Women Constantly Scream at Each Other every night, maybe you just need to cut a show or two from your normal programming lineup. Doing so will give you more time for quality family interaction, plus watching TV negates a lot of those great benefits dinnertime just gave you anyway – so you’re better off watching less of it.
Do something other than dinner
If dinner just absolutely cannot work with your family’s busy schedule, try sitting together for a different meal – breakfast before work and school, perhaps? Weekend brunch? A late-night FourthMeal after you all go clubbing together? (Although we’re pretty sure that last one probably comes with a whole bunch of other negative side effects.) The point is, your kids can get the same benefits no matter what time you dine with them.
Remember that something’s better than nothing
Even if you can’t commit to five days of epic, multi-course meals each week, you can probably manage to do at least a little something, at least some of the time. Spend twenty minutes munching on a frozen pizza across the table from your kids twice a week, and that’s forty minutes of checking in, problem solving and relationship building that you might not have had otherwise.
Got your own ideas about how to share meals together more often? How about a snarky caption for that ridiculous stock photo we inserted above? Post ‘em both in the comments below!