The Importance of Family Meals (page 2)

The Importance of Family Meals

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Updated on Feb 21, 2014

Social Skills

Family meals also support kids’ social development. The CASA study found that children in families that shared meals more often were more likely to be able to carry on a conversation, to feel that their parents were proud of them, and to say that their family got along well.

If you want to purge “LOL” and “like, totally” from your kid’s vocabulary, start at the dinner table, which is one of the few regular opportunities a kid has to have a sustained conversation with adults. Being able to talk comfortably with people other than her school peers will increase her confidence when she’s in different social situations. Frequent, focused family time is also a great way to reinforce your child’s self-esteem by demonstrating a genuine interest in her life and inviting her to feel more of a part of your life through conversation.

Tips to Get the Most Out of Family Meals

  • Take baby steps. If you’ve never had a family dinner before, aiming for seven nights a week might be a bit of a stretch. Instead, shoot for once or twice more a week than your family is used to.
  • Turn off the TV and ditch the phones. These digital distractions reduce the quality of conversation and the bonding time. Instead, talk to your child. “Ask honest questions, and then follow-up questions, without being nosy,” says Dickinson. Make sure your child knows that you’re listening and that you care about what’s going on in her life.
  • Don’t only talk about your child’s life. “Also talk about matters of general interest using adult vocabulary,” Dickinson suggests. “Children learn from ‘eavesdropping.’” Try to engage your kid in more varied subjects like current events for extra points, and watch her knowledge and curiosity grow.
  • Make shared meals fun. “Create a positive environment,” says Dickinson. “Don’t focus only on manners; make meals an enjoyable social occasion.” In order to reap the rewards of family meals, family time has to be less of a chore and more something that everyone looks forward to. It helps to know that most children do enjoy the family meals, as much as they may grumble about them at first. The CASA study found that most teens who ate less than four family meals each week wished that they shared meals with their family members more often.

It may take some stretching and wiggling of your family’s schedule to make family meals more frequent, but the rewards of increased family-centered time are definitely worth it. Whether your kid is struggling with healthy habits, self-confidence, or feeling connected with her family, sharing a meal together will build her up, and the benefits will filter into other areas of her daily life.


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