You’ve doubtless heard that family meals can cure all forms of social ills. Kids who eat with their parents are less likely to develop eating disorders, experiment with drugs and alcohol, or become obese. Eating meals around the family table also results in higher grades, better vocabularies, improved nutrition, and reduced stress levels. Eating together is apparently a magic bullet.
While family dinners sound great in theory, it’s more difficult in practice. Once you consider the obligations of modern life, like soccer practice, organization meetings, music lessons, hectic work schedules, and long commutes, and it feels like mission impossible. How on earth can you manage a family meal every night when your own plate is already full?
Stop over thinking and lower your expectations. Family meals don’t have to be elaborate to produce the desired benefits. While it might not be nutritionally sound, a bucket of drive-thru chicken or a pizza delivery counts as a family meal—so long as everyone is present. You can also get a head start on dinner with a crockpot. In short, the benefits come from the shared family time rather than the food consumed.
Worried your kids might grumble? It’s probably an act. A report from North Dakota State University found that children who regularly eat with the family experienced a sense of structure and routine that led to increased feelings of security and well-being. Moreover, 79% of teenagers admitted to actually enjoying regular family dinners.
Are you ready? Start small. Make it your goal to have one or two family meals each week. Increase that number (as schedules allow) until you find you’re eating together most days of the week. Make everyone happy by including the family in meal planning. You don’t have to wow them with cooking prowess to make family mealtimes memorable. Focus on spending time together as a family—without electronic devices—and the rest will fall into place.