Editor's note: This article was originally published on Anne Banks' blog, Travel Parent Eat. It has been republished here with permission.
Life is crazy, hectic, chaotic, stressful and FUN. Am I right? Amidst all these different challenges we need to spend time together as a family.
Growing up, my mom made dinner just about every night. The only exceptions were date nights and she usually had something prepared for us kids and the babysitter. We did eat out at restaurants occasionally, but really only for birthdays. We would order pizza about once a month as well.
I can't even imagine how she did that, I get tired of cooking dinner three nights in a row. If it weren't for freezer meals, we would probably eat cold cereal for dinner a couple of times a week. I'm grateful she made the effort, and I am striving to follow in her footsteps. Why, might you ask? Because I realize the importance of families getting together at the end of the day to reconnect and share about their day.
My husband's parents owned a catering business and they were gone many nights. As my husband and his brother got into their teens, they were frequently given $20 and the phone number to the pizza delivery. He talks about how he wished his family had been together at nights to share the meal and discuss the day's events. This is another reason we make family dinner a priority.
I don't want to give you the wrong idea with that preface. Our family meals are not heavenly, blissful events, but we are doing our best to make them enjoyable for everyone. Here's some reasons you should make family dinners a priority, and ways to make them more enjoyable.
Studies show that families that frequently eat dinner together will have less tension, and teens are less likely to try illegal drugs or alcohol. I could stop right there, right? When families spend time together frequently, the parents are able to pick up on cues from their children, and the children know their parents are listening and care.
Families that make time for dinner together will eat healthier, on average. Meals that are prepared at home have less trans fats, and children typically eat more fruits and vegetables. Studies also show that when families eat dinner together at least three times a week, the children weigh less than children who do not eat dinner with their families that often.
When children feel connected to their families, they feel secure. This security leads to higher self-esteem. Higher self-esteem can result in higher grades, and less inclination to peer pressure or body image issues.
You may ask how it is possible to have family dinners that frequently. Here are a couple of tips to make it easier.
Freezer meals: Make them ahead and stick them in the oven when you get home, or put them in the crock pot before you leave in the morning (depending on the recipe).
Crock pot meals: Put all the ingredients in the crock pot in the morning, and it's ready to eat when you get home.
Fast family favorites: tacos, soup, grilled cheese sandwiches.
Brenner: This is breakfast for dinner: waffles, pancakes, omelets.
Take out: There's nothing wrong with ordering pizza from your favorite restaurant.
Make dinner time a fun time together with a couple of these tips:
Use the fancy place settings (and practice etiquette on these nights).
Have the kids help set the table, and make the meal.
Have theme nights (Monday is Mexican, Tuesday is try something new, Wednesday is whatever's leftover, etc.).
Avoid serious discussions until after dinner is over
Everyone gets a turn sharing about their day
What have you found helps bring your family together? Why are family dinners important to you?