The simple act of sharing meals provides many benefits to all family members:
Benefits of Family Mealtime
– Family meals provide a sense of unity and the opportunity for daily communication.
– Parents can use family meals to monitor their children’s moods and activities, while also understanding what their kids are doing, with whom and where.
– Family meals have a positive impact on young children’s language and literacy development. By sharing family conversation, young children can learn new words, begin to understand language and build conversation skills.
– Many studies show family meals are linked with a variety of positive outcomes that improve child well-being. These include a decreased risk of substance use, improved personal and social well-being, and better academic performance.
– Family meals provide a perfect opportunity to model healthy eating habits. Adults can show moderate portion sizes and encourage new foods.
– Family mealtime can be used to encourage courtesy and teach social manners.
– Several studies show how regular family meals are strongly associated with an increased consumption of fruits, vegetables, grains and other healthy food choices.
– Research suggests that family meals are associated with a reduced risk of childhood obesity in children and adolescents.
Source: Food Marketing Institute
Set a goal to have regular family meals at least 3 to 4 times per week, if possible. Most research notes some type of improvement in a child’s outcome when the family participated in at least three meals together each week. If dinner doesn’t work due to schedules, try breakfast or snack time.
Remember, the benefit of consistent family mealtimes. Routine family meals can generate feelings of closeness and comfort. Even when mealtimes are a bit hectic, having a regular mealtime schedule can provide children with needed stability.
Pay attention to the quality of family mealtime. This is a key time to communicate with your children and for them to do the same with you. Avoid outside distractions as much as possible. Turn off the TV and cell phones and ask each other open-ended questions about the day, school, friends and any goals family members have.