Make Time for Family - At the Dinner Table!

Filed under: Opinions

My kids beg me to watch their favorite television shows with them -- reruns of The Brady Bunch, Dancing with the Stars, and cake competitions on the Food Network. They also tell me that cuddling up on the couch with popcorn for family movie nights tops their list of favorite things to do. Watching a show together can be bonding -- it's fun to laugh, root for a dancer or a baker, and share a love for a certain show.

Still, I was a little surprised to learn that half of the one-thousand families who participated in a recent survey on family media habits said that watching TV was the best way to catch up as a family. And one in 10 admitted that watching television was the only time they spent together.

As someone who enjoys watching television with my kids, I'm not knocking the experience. But if this is the only way you spend time together, you're missing out. Nothing can replace the bonding that comes from conversations around a dinner table. And the benefits of the family dinner experience are mind-blowing. Kids who enjoy family meals regularly are less likely to do drugs, smoke, or have an eating disorder. They are also more likely to have better grades and to delay sexual activity.

Part of the reason many families do not eat together is that they find it stressful. They're right. It can be. But it doesn't have to be. The more your family eats together, the more enjoyable it becomes. Getting into the habit is well worth the effort. It may be easier to turn on the television than to plan a family meal, but there is simply no replacement for the oldest of all family rituals.

Tips for Making Family Meals More Enjoyable:

Set the tone. Start your meal with a prayer or thanksgiving ritual.

No distractions! Turn the T.V. off, let the phone ring.

Get kids in on the food preparations. They are more likely to eat the meal if they help to make it.

No nagging. Avoid topics like "you never clean your room, take out trash."

Manners matter. This is your chance to teach life-long skills.

Keep the conversation inclusive. Don't let one person take over.

Keep it respectful. No laughing at others or teasing allowed.

Forget the "no politics and religion" rule! This is a time for families to discuss the world around them and for you to share and instill your family's values. At the same time, allow your kids to have different opinions and to share them without criticism.

Do you have tips for successful family dinner? Share them in the comments!

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.