The Most Important Meal of the Day Is...The One You Eat as a Family
I remember growing up and regularly having meals as a family. My mom, dad, brother and I would sit around the table and discuss the events of the day, catching up with one another. Fast forward to today with my own family - husband and 2 boys - and I will be honest, our meals as a family are anything but regular. And to be even more honest, I didn’t give it a second thought until recently when I was at an orientation school event for my oldest son. His principal made an interesting statement: "Did you know one of the most important things you can do as a family to ensure your child is set up for success is the family meal?" WOW! Mind blown. So, I researched it and sure enough, there are multiple benefits for a child when the family meal is prioritized.
Plays a role in language skill development. Simply by being exposed (hearing and participating) in everyday conversation helps a child to develop their vocabulary, ability to pronounce words correctly, and provides a platform for children to articulate thoughts and ideas.
Provides an opportunity to reconnect as a family. Children who have a meal together have a structured and consistent opportunity to talk about events occurring in their lives, problem solve together and as an added bonus are less likely to experience anxiety and depression.
Improves academic performance. Research shows that children who ate with family 3 times per week or more did better academically. Who knew that eating meals as a family has a positive effect on test scores and overall grades!?
Now, if you’re like me, you understand that family meals are incredibly important but not always easy, right? Especially given today’s busy schedules with careers, school work and extracurricular activities. Below are a few tips that have helped my family in prioritizing the family meal:
Look at your schedule ahead of time for each week and determine when everyone is together. Put it on the calendar, just as you would any other important appointment, and make it happen.
Make small, doable progressions to begin. You don’t need to revamp your entire schedule right out of the gate. The goal is to get 7 meals a week together as a family (no fewer than 3 meals/week). Start small. Make sure it’s realistic. Start by increasing meals by 1 meal each week.
Be flexible. Notice, I reference the family MEAL. Your meal doesn’t have to be dinner every time. Take advantage of breakfast, lunch, or even snacks.
If time is a barrier, keep the meal simple. Meals do not need to be gourmet and elaborate. Remember what the meal is about - connection. Your child is less likely to remember if you served sandwiches instead of a steak dinner and more likely to remember the time spent together.
What does the family meal mean to you and your family? What have you done to ensure it happens with your family? Comment below! I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions.