Over the years, eating dinner together as a family was a sacred event that involves the coming together of family and loved ones to share a meal and conversation. The family dynamic has been changing with our culture’s more fast-paced lifestyle and the emergence of fast food. Sadly, many families no longer take the time to sit together and participate in the cooking of a meal. Stoves in some households have become decorations of a tradition that was once an integral part of family life and child development.
It is not impossible to find a teenager in this generation who does not know about family dinners. This is because lack of engagement in eating together has become the new normal. As a society we have changed our prioritization to that of careers and in the process, the family dinner dynamic has been lost.
We hope to see families engaging together in both meal preparation and dinner. The benefits of families eating together far exceed the time savings from grabbing a fast meal or eating out.
Family Dinners Allow for Family Members to Have Conversations
Communication is crucial for married couples and families. In a 2013 study, it was identified that 65% of all divorces resulted due to a lack of communication. That number is staggering and makes me wonder the impact that a lack of communication has on children. Family dinners provide a perfect opportunity for family members to engage in active conversation. With an increase of depression and suicide rates in teens according to a 2017 Youth Risk Behaviors Survey, providing an opportunity to talk with your children and learn about their daily lives is very important. This can allow family members to provide suggestions on potential conflicts or provide useful information about the child’s studies in school. This is a fundamental part of what a family’s daily routine used to consist of, however, now families and their dinner times have become fragmented and independent of each other.
Saving Money as a Family
On average, each individual American eats 4-5 commercially prepared meals per week. That is four or five meals that are being conducted outside of the home and they are typically not the most health conscience meals either. According to a 2017 study, an average of $12.50 is spent by individuals per meal outside of the home, and only about $4.50 per each meal made in their kitchen. Meanwhile, even less than $4 can be spent on each individual when meals are prepared at home for many people at the same time. The cost of a well-prepared home meal made by the family and shared at home could be less than $2 per meal. When you eat together at home, you save a lot of money that can be used for other family activities, such as family vacations, sports events and other activities.
Manners and Child Development
Teaching children good table manners is a significant part of family dinner. When children dine with adults, they learn the proper ways to eat various food by watching, practicing and copying the adults. Habits such as expressing thanks, taking small bites, appropriate positioning and use of napkins in addition to the clearing of plates are learned when families eat together. Outside of table manners, it also helps children learn about wise and healthy eating choices.
Fostering Healthy Food Choices
More parents are becoming wise to the types of foods that are healthy and those that pose danger to their spouse or children. Over the years there have been significant changes in the way food is packaged and prepared, with the use of preservatives and other types of chemicals. Parents especially are taking more time in the research of what is in their food and how they prepare it. This is crucial to protect the family from unnecessary toxins or other exposures. This is a fantastic practice in the consideration of the family’s health. A recent research study suggested that eating alone may lead to poor food choices among young adults. When people are left alone to make food decisions, they choose to eat junk food with high sugar or fast processed food more frequently for the convenience, not necessarily realizing the health risks.
When members of a family are used to eating home cooked meals together, they tend to go towards places and food options that are healthier and like those they have grown accustom to eating with the family.
Building Family Bonds
The best and overall benefit of eating dinner together as a family is that it has the potential to strengthen family bonds as it gives the opportunity for spending time together daily. During extended family dinners, everyone in the family feels a sense of connection and security with each other as they catch up on their daily activities. They discuss and have a better understanding of what position they hold in the family and how much their family members value them.
Putting the Plan into Action
If you have found your family has moved away from family dinner time, except for holidays throughout the year, then this is something you can put into motion. Start by setting a dinner time and dedicate a few days of the week to cooking and eating together as a family.