You've probably heard about the importance of family dinners and the long-lasting benefits. With national Family Day right around the corner on September 27th, it's the perfect time to start thinking about how your family handles dinnertime.
Experts insist that Family Day should occur everyday. Family relationship coach Jessica Robinson says that family dinners can "help build long-term, healthy relationships within the family."
Sadly, many families aren't in the regular habit of eating together. "It has been amazing to me how many families cannot remember the last time they had a meal together and wonder why they have no connection," says therapist Robin Siebold, Ph.D., LMHC.
It doesn't have to be that way!
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, eating together makes it more likely your meals will be healthy and balanced. Moreover, girls are less likely to develop eating disorders when they have regular family dinners.
Beyond that, family meals are important for human connections. "'Breaking bread' has been a longstanding tradition for feeling connected across many cultures. It is a time to share the day, ideas, and feel emotionally together," says Seibold.
Family dinners start with the food. "I think you need to be realistic and be kind to yourself as well as a parent. Some of the parents I know do a big cooking on a Sunday, so that they have leftovers [for another meal]," says Karen Berman, author of the new cookbook Friday Night Bites: Kick Off the Weekend with Recipes and Crafts for the Whole Family. Berman also suggests that families "make intelligent use of convenience products," to help make family dinners doable. In her house, pasta and eggs are often center stage for weeknight dinners because they are fast and versatile.
Talking is another important component of dinnertime, says Robinson. "[Dinners] provide an important opportunity for children to practice the art of conversation ... so they can continue to build critical social skills that will serve them later in life."
Schedule your dinners so that they work for your family. Whether it's earlier or later, make it convenient.
Want to turn up the fun? Have a themed dinner with your family, such as a movie-inspired menu or a fiesta night. In Berman's book, she details a variety of fun menus such as Into the Forest, which includes recipes, conversation starters and crafts that center around the forest theme. The ideas are a way to make mealtime fun for both kids and parents. "Pick a theme that interests both you and your child," says Berman. "I'm really convinced that if you share something that you love or something that fascinates you with your child, your child will really be caught up in it."
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