Why You Need Family Meal Time
Many families are scheduled to the max for various reasons. It is hard to sit down and connect with each other. Yet that is just what we need to do more often. According to research:
“Recent studies link regular family dinners with many behaviors that parents pray for: lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy and depression, as well as higher grade-point averages and self-esteem.”
There are many additional benefits to sharing a meal together as well, including lowering the obesity rates and incidents of eating disorders in children.
How Family Meal Time Started in our House
Our oldest daughter, A , is the one who encouraged us to eat together as a family each night.
When I was young, my family ate together every night, extracurricular activities permitting. We talked and laughed together while my dad had the news on quietly (most of the time) in the background. I always assumed this was what most families did and what I would do with my own family.
My husband Nick grew up differently. Being significantly younger than both of his brothers, and with his dad working nights, it was often just Nick and his mom for dinner. When Nick was older it was sometimes just him. After living on his own for years he got used to eating in front of the TV each night. When we got married I agreed to eat on the couch at night with him. We agreed that when we had kids we would eat at the table as a family.
When A began eating baby food, sometimes we would eat with her. Often she was hungry earlier than we were and I would feed her and we would eat later. Soon, she wanted to eat when we were eating too, even if it was just a few baby puffs. Shortly after that, she would cry when I put her in the high chair if Nick wasn’t with us. We realized it was time to transition to family meals.
There were many benefits to eating together as a family. A was eating once at night and was happy we were all eating together. We were spending a little more time together as a family each night. Nick and I began eating earlier than we used to and realized we felt better the next day. We had a regular meal time, which is healthier and also made meal planning easier. I wasn’t waiting for A to fall asleep each night before beginning to cook.
As the rest of the kids have been born, they have only know family meal time. We enjoy talking and laughing together and having some set family time every day, extracurricular activities permitting, of course!
You may be thinking your family is too busy for family meal time. We know that scheduling can be challenging, especially as you add more people into the mix. Below are our 5 best tips to set you up for success.
Related Post: Family Tradition
Tips for creating a family meal time when you’re busy:
- Prepare as much food ahead of time as possible. We like to pre-cut veggies a night or two ahead of time and pre-mix some ingredients the night before. There are some nights it is the last thing I want to do after cleaning the dinner mess, but I’m so grateful the next day when I can throw together a nutritious homemade meal in 20 minutes. I also like to double some of the meals I make over the weekend to reheat during the week.
- Give yourself permission to make it simple. There are some nights we have 20 minutes where everyone is home together. On those nights I love to heat up some store bought soup or reheat waffles left over from the weekend. We can still eat together, which is the most important thing.
- Aim for eating together five nights a week. Research shows that your family will gain the benefits of eating together even if it’s not every night.
- Eat breakfast or lunch as a family instead. The time spent together is more important than the time of day.
- Each child could have an age appropriate role in helping during meal time, whether it is setting the table, making sure everyone has a drink, or cleaning up after themselves. When they’re old enough they may even be responsible for preparing a meal each week!
What is your best tip for a successful family meal time?
18 thoughts on “Why You Must Have Family Meal Time”
Family dinner together is something we do almost every night because our kids are small and everyone is home. I’m sure it will get harder as they grow and start to have evening commitments!
We are finding certain days of the week to be harder now that they’re getting older. I love summer when everyone is home each evening!
Wonderful article. Family time is so important and so hard to come by as my teenagers schedules are so busy. Thanks for a great read!
Thank you Rebecca. We don’t have teenagers yet. I’m sure life only gets busier as the kids get older!
Involving the kids in menu planning and having them take turns being “dinner helper” is key to keeping this going. It has immediate 1:1 connection but over time has such lasting rewards. Thanks for encouraging tips!
Di, I love that idea! I may have to use it!!!
We didn’t eat as a family when the girls were really, really young – but for the last year, I have put my foot down! We NEED that time! Life is so busy with extra curriculars and school, not to mention jobs, that if we do not schedule that time, we don’t get any! And I couldn’t agree more about making it simple – one less thing to worry about, right?
Heather I agree. The simpler, the better!
I couldn’t agree more. We eat as a family most nights and it’s my favorite time of day. We also try to have at least one traditional African meal a week eating around the same platter to teach our son my husband’s culture.
Marie, I enjoy that time of day too. It is so wonderful that your son grows up learning about two cultures!
These are great tips!! 5 nights a week is a stretch for how busy we are but we get at least 3 in there usually
Erin, our number of nights depends on the season. With four kids involved in different after school activities it can be challenging!
Family meal time is part of being a family. Really wish more people took the time to sit down around the dinner table and have a conversation.
I agree Candy. I know it can be challenging with working parents and after school commitments. It is something that needs to be prioritized for most families to make sure it happens.
I was just talking to my husband about family
meals last night, great tips!
Thank you Emily! We really enjoy this part of our day.
Great read, I value family time together even though with a toddler it is becoming very hard to manage but I am learning to get creative. thanks for sharing.
Thank you Denise. Toddlers have a way of ‘helping’ us see things a little differently, don’t they?