More Important Reasons to Take Time for the Family Dinner

Its a well-documented fact that children who eat dinner consistently with their families feel more connected, perform better in school and are less likely to be involved in drugs, alcohol, and other dangerous behaviors. But in todays fast-paced, demanding, busy world, there seems to be little time for gathering and connecting with family, and in blended families with transitioning children and full schedules, its even more difficult. We have the illusion of unity with our pervasive cell phones, instant messaging and email, but theres no replacement for face to face, electronic-free communication with family members all together.

One simple key is to plan regular family dinners. There are many good reasons to make the family dinner part of your routine as often as possible.

1. A study among 1010 young couples by the University of Missouri showed that mealtimes, together with preparation, eating the meal, and cleaning up, provided valuable time for couples to bond as they shared this activity together. The frustrating challenge of balancing work and time together was significantly alleviated and their relationship made stronger by spending time together in the kitchen. An added advantage was that couples who started out their marriage with a shared mealtime practice were more likely to maintain it once they had children.

2. Many parents struggle with the challenge of providing a healthy diet that their children will eat. Were all aware of the increasing number of children with obesity and Type II diabetes caused by eating unhealthy pre-prepared foods and by unstructured inactivity. Were also aware that children, even teenagers, can be picky eaters, unwilling to move beyond their favorites of chicken nuggets, pizza and fries. Heres some encouraging news:

Researchers at Teachers College at Columbia University discovered that kids in grades K- 6, who not only had classes in healthy nutrition but also were involved in preparing vegetables and whole grains, were more likely to eat those foods than kids who did not do the cooking. The conclusion is parents should provide healthy food choices and involve children in meal preparation, despite the mess and reluctance to have young children in the kitchen. If parents are worried about sharp knives and hot water around little children, be sure the kitchen is safe for the particular age group. Not only will the children learn cooking skills, they will be more likely to try the new and healthy foods they helped create.

Action Steps

* Plan to have a family dinner at least once a week where everyone is engaged with each other, face to face and not sidetracked by television, cell phones, or other electronic gadgets. Keep it simple with…

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