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Why Eating with Family is Important

by Pamela Luker, Pope County

Some of us are spending more time at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the last several weeks have been challenging for most of us, I have noticed some positive events taking place. I have seen communities pulling resources together to support each other by means of donating to others in need, people being able to take care of the little things around the house that they have not been able to get to, but most importantly I have noticed families getting to spend more time together.

Spending time with your family can sometimes be challenging for many reasons. Some of us have busy schedules with work, school, and extra-curricular activities. However, family time can be very beneficial. Specifically, family mealtime has many benefits for parents and children.

Research shows that children who participate in consistent family mealtimes eat an overall healthier diet, consume more fruits and vegetables, maintain healthy body weights perform better academically, and develop larger vocabularies. These same children are less likely to: engage in risky behaviors including tobacco, drug, and alcohol use, struggle with disordered eating, and experience depression or low self-esteem.

Parents who engage in family mealtimes have overall healthier diets, enjoy strengthened family bonds, spend less money on food by eating at home more frequently, and are able to model healthy eating habits.

Get started by practicing these tips from Family Life Specialist, Dr. Brittney Schrick:

  1. Keep things simple- You do not have to have a big formal meal. Even if you are eating sandwiches on paper plates, you can still sit down at the table and eat together.
  2. Turn off screens: Leave phones, tablets, and other devices elsewhere in the house and do not allow them at the table.
  3. Relax-Unless you are really in a hurry, avoid rushing through meals.
  4. Be patient and practical-If something else is on the schedule for that evening, do not rush everyone. Instead, you can offer something that can be eaten and cleaned up quickly.
  5. Engage- Talking to your kids is never wasted time. Ask them questions and give them time to answer. Allow them to ask questions.

What if dinner does not go well?

It is okay if things do not go as planned. It may take time for the family to adjust to the change.  Remember, benefits of failure outweigh the risk of failure and now is a great time to start incorporating family mealtime.