Only about 30 percent of families sit down together for a meal at dinner time. And if you’re among them, kudos to you — because family-style dinners are beneficial to everyone.
But if you’re among the 70 percent who struggle to find the time, we’ve got you covered with the motivation you need to make this a habit.
While studies are mixed on the topic, it may be more about how you use the time as a family than whether you have dinner together.
So if you are having family dinners together, here are some tips to make the most out of them.
These tips can help you use family dinners to set your child up for success.
If you want to set your child up for academic success, consider using family dinner time to discuss school and what your child learned. Children are more likely to pay attention in school when they know their parents are going to ask about what they learned. Start this habit early to foster a lifelong love of learning and stellar academic performance.
You may also want to create a routine where your kids either start homework before or after your family dinner.
Family dinners create an opportunity for families to connect. Use this time to talk to your kids about their accomplishments for the day, but don’t forget to discuss failures.
It’s important for every child to know that failing is a part of life. The only way to avoid failure is to avoid trying, and that’s not going to help anyone move forward. Self-esteem begins at home, and family dinners are a great time and place to reinforce your child’s confidence.
A National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA) study concluded that teens who eat dinner with their families at least five times a week are twice as likely to have used alcohol and 1.5 times more likely to have used marijuana than their peers who don’t have family dinners.
Family dinners may have such an impact because they send the message to the child that their parents will always care and be involved in their lives. And when parents are involved, it’s a bit more difficult for a child to get away with using drugs.
Drug use in summer is particularly problematic for teens. It’s a time when school is out and kids tend to have a lot of time on their hands, so be sure to carry the family dinner tradition throughout the year.
When you cook more dinners at home, everyone in the family will benefit from a lower risk of obesity. Cooking at home gives you control over the sodium and fat you use in your food, and it’s almost always significantly less than you’d find in restaurant or fast food. Just avoid processed food as much as possible because this is laden with sodium, fats and chemical additives.
Research shows that family dinners aren’t exactly a magic bullet on their own, but when you use that time wisely, they can make a drastic impact on your children’s lives. Try using family dinners to connect with your children and talk about all the important things that are going on in their lives, good and bad.