Eating together as a Family: If I must pick up a handful of important things. Things I feel is pivotal to parenting. Then eating together as a family will be one of them.
The benefits that one gets when members of the family come together and share a meal. And the best of them is that it builds family ties.
It can be quite an entertaining time when the conversations are light, and everyone participates.
Many times, eating together as a family has been the highlight for my day. To just listen to the way the children talk with each other have fun. The way they listen to each other’s problems and challenges. And how they throw in their ideas and solutions.
It is sometimes hilarious to watch your 6-year-old giving advice to your 17-year-old. And funnier when the 17-year-old hears and responds.
There all these times these conversations have helped me understand what is going on in my child’s life. It has helped me follow up later with my child. And help them through what they are going through.
Topics covered in this blog
- Challenges that prevent eating together as a family
- 15 Benefits of Eating together as a Family
- Effective mealtime conversation starters
- Word of caution to parents
We all know that breakfast is most important during the day. however, when our time with the kids is limited to so few hours, dinner is the only opportunity during the day that the whole family can gather around the same table and enjoy eating together as a family.
Busy modern life and the presence of devices / technology keep us busy so that interactions with family begin to be neglected. And eating together as a family is becoming a rarity.
Challenges that prevent eating together as a family
However, these days, when the children are getting older. With the various activities and lifestyles of modern society.
Not to mention the added traffic jams in big cities, making it difficult to eat together.
Morning times is when it is very difficult, and everyone is getting ready with their respective activities.
Not only are the mothers busy, the children are also busy with various activities, from school to extracurricular activities to taking courses outside of school.
All these lead to people not just sitting together and quietly enjoy eating together as a family.
15 benefits of Eating together as a Family
For those of you who still maintain the habit of eating together as a family, that is great.
But for those of you who no longer enjoy this simple happiness in life, here are some reasons why eating together as a family needs to be maintained.
Helping child development
If your children are very young, sitting together while eating dinner will help them grow and develop.
Children can learn to improve language, social, and table manners (e.g. not chewing while talking, no clinging of cutlery, Request the salt to be passed etc..).
Eating together as a family at the dining table is the right place for children to increase the value of politeness, patience, and even other valuable lessons.
You can learn about other ways to develop moral values in our kids from our article morality.
Improve mental health
Dinner with family can improve mental health. This relates to family involvement in supporting other family members when talking to each other or meeting at the dinner table.
When children talk about the day and other things. It not only makes the child feel heard. It also helps other children listen and participate in the discussion. This is a benefit of eating together as a family you cannot afford to miss.
These become more and more crucial as your child approaches teen years. Get to know about it in our article mental health.
Improve body health
Parents can control what food their children eat when they eat together. If children can eat alone, they will prefer foods that make them happy, not healthy foods.
From a health perspective, eating together is believed to make us healthier, if the menu served is always a healthy menu. Children who eat regularly with their families tend to have healthier diets.
They eat more fruits and vegetables, eat less fried foods, soda, and saturated fat than children who do not eat the family diet.
Thus, eating together regularly can reduce the risk of obesity and eating disorders in children.
Get more insights from our article Nutrition.
Strengthen family ties
The more time we spend together, the stronger the bond that grows in that relationship. Well, one of the simple things we can do is eating together as a family.
There we can exchange stories so that openness and closeness to the family is maintained. Active participation in discussions and topics. And awareness of the issues others in the family are going through.
More articles on bonding can be got for the below three topics
- Baby bonding
- Fathers contribution
- Emotional bonding
Many people run out of money because they buy food outside the home too often. Even though cooking yourself at home and eating with your family will be much more economical.
While there is this direct benefit of eating together as a family. The other indirect cost saving is the less need to run to a doctor. Due to dietary related issues or other health issues that is caused by poor diet.
Improve eating habits and etiquette
Casual chat about various interesting and fun things at the dining table can also develop children’s social skills, you know.
Chats at the dinner table also increase the vocabulary of the child and the child can express himself better, provided that if his talk is heard and appreciated.
Well, it is during this chat that you can teach children manners and give him a good example of dining etiquette at the dinner table.
For example, you should not talk too excitedly when your mouth is full, it is best to chew and swallow first. Then they should listen to the other person who is talking. It is okay to argue at the dinner table, but not to be rude and play with food.
By eating together as a family will give you a platform to instil in children from an early age proper eating habit.
Make sure that all the children have a chair that is suitable for their height, cutlery and plates that match their eating skills, an apron, etc.
It is important that the children sit comfortably in their chairs and learn to eat neatly and without unnecessary movements,
Do not miss to learn more about good habits from our article Good habits.
Eating with family affect children’s behaviour
Eating with family can affect children’s behaviour. Children will avoid eating disorders and depression.
Children’s achievement in school is also high, which affects children’s values and self-esteem.
Children who eat dinner with the family usually grow up to become younger adults who have healthier habits and are at lower risk of obesity.
Eating together not only helps kids in developing manners. It also helps reduce Argumentative behaviour, backtalks and anger.
You can know more about these from the articles given below.
- Teen anger
- Argumentative behaviour
- Teen back talk.
Helps in eliminating attention deficit.
When you eat dinner as a family. Both you and your spouse are present for the family.
By eating together as a family, the attention that you give will be good enough for the children. This attention will help in elimination of issues such as attention seeking behaviour, Temper tantrums etc.
You can know more about these from the articles given below.
- Attention seeking behaviour.
- Reduce temper tantrums
Helps in Times Management
When a family needs to meet for dinner together on the table. It means all the family members schedules need to sync up. So, by have a set times for dinner helps all members of the family to manage their times better and be available for dinner time.
This also helps in prioritising and scheduling other activities according to dinner time.
Read more about other ways of improving time management from our article time management.
Helps biological clock
When dinner is always at a set time. It helps the body clock adjust to it. i.e. if dinner is at 7 PM every day. Then you stomach juices will start to secrete at that time. In anticipation of the food that is to be served.
Hunger panks come out at that time and your body is ready for the food that you take. All this helps in better digestion of food.
Fun activity together with food
Cooking is an activity that involves the senses and hands. This can be done together. You can arrange the ingredients for the salad and have everyone in the family choose vegetables to make faces, trees, and cars.
Involve the children in preparing the meal. Children can be involved in the meal from the preparation stage to clearing the dishes from the table.
Ask them for help taking the ingredients out of the fridge, mixing, or preparing simple food. Ask them to set the table – children who take part in household chores feel valuable, learn responsibility.
They feel independent and understand that they can contribute and help their environment despite their young age.
Of course, each child will participate in preparing the meal according to his age. When all the food is placed on the table in advance, comfortable and relaxed sitting around the table is possible.
Helps parents to regulate sleep schedules
When the whole family come in for dinner. It is like all calendars sync up. Which means that the time spent after dinner can also be regulated better by parents.
Form my experience when dinner time is set. It helps us to move from dinner to prayer easily. Have a meeting after dinner or have a family activity together.
It also helps in getting all children to ready and prepare to sleep on time.
You might be interested to read our article sleep.
Dinner can be a great time to try new behaviours. Each family member can try new ways to interact with one another.
For example, agree to each other not to make negative comments at the dinner table and see what happens. A child may be invited to make dinner. We do this once a week. One meal is done by our kids.
The kids self esteem improves when they are responsible to create a meal and the rest of the family consumes it. When appreciations flow their way, it boosts their confidence.
Other ways of improving self-confidence and self-esteem can be got from our article self confidence and self-esteem.
Our kids need to know that cooking is a task for everyone. It is not meant only for the ladies or girls in the house. Make sure that your boys learn to cook and contribute.
Also, one meal a week is assigned to your spouse so that he can model and show the behaviour to the rest of the family.
This is a good way to teach equality to your kids.
Know more about equality and how to teach boys equality from our article equality.
Helps to pass down family history
The dining table is the best place to talk. Children who know family stories become tougher and feel better about themselves. Inspirational stories about family history can help children understand the world.
Children will connect with something bigger than themselves. You can tell about yourself and other family members when they were the same age as the child.
Describe your first job, how the child’s name was chosen, and the childhood pet.
The benefits of storytelling are immense. And from personal experience I can tell you it influences all ages.
When you tell a story to a toddler or a teenager. Know more from our trending article story telling.
Family Dinner Time conversation Starters
I have listed below few of my favourite conversation starters… Hope it is of help to you…
Note: Mix and match your conversation starters as per the three categories listed above to bring variation and spice to your dinner table conversations.
Day To day topics
- What made you happy today?
- What dream did you have yesterday?
- Have you helped someone today?
- Is there anything you grateful for today?
- What is the happening news at school today?
- Tell me about the book or the cartoon you were reading?
- What made you sad today?
- What did you do with your best friend today?
- Which call did you enjoy today at school and why?
- How was your day today?
Getting to know topics
- Tell us what is your biggest fear?
- If you like pets what pet would you grow
- How many friends do you have? What is your group favourite activity?
- What character of yours your friend likes most
- What character do you like in your friend?
- What do you like to be when you are big?
- Do you like vacationing in a mountain, or seaside, or desert, or forest or plain green land?
- What is your favourite … (movie/animal/food? Etc) and why?
- What is the happiest day in your life thus far?
- Which is the most important thing in your life?
Imaginative topics (To expand your child’s horizons)
- Which place do you like to visit or live in this world and why?
- If you were mommy/ daddy how would you be with your children
- If you have lots of money what would you buy or do with it?
- What superhero would you be?
- What are the 3 wishes you will ask genie of you have a lamp.
- Describe how your house will look and wat car will you have?
- If you become your friend for a day what would you do?
- Which family festival or event you like and why?
- If you make a cartoon what would the story be
- If you are the most powerful person in the world what would you do?
Note to parents…
Despite the busy work schedules of parents and extracurricular activities for children, they are also busy. You can make time for dinner in the evening.
The whole process of cooking and having dinner together can take as little as an hour. At this moment, children feel connected to their parents.
Have a fixed schedule
If you do not have the time to do dinner every day. You can do it with your family for breakfast or lunch on weekends.
Make a family meal commitment when everyone sits together to share food, have fun and chat with each other.
But have a schedule and stick to it. Do not have it in a haphazard way.
Avail maximum benefits of eating together
Turn off TV, cell phones, etc. Eating in front of the TV does not allow for all the benefits we have mentioned so far.
So even if you are busy talking on the phone or sending an email you will not really be focused on what is going on around the table.
When technology can use around the table. It beats all purpose. You will soon find yourself and your family engrossed in technology than with each other.
So have dinner time as technology free time.
Do not forget to read our articles Screen time addiction and internet addiction.
Avoid unnecessary threats and rewards on eating
Do not make food the focus of interest or concern – allow children to choose what they want to eat. Let they make a choice from the variety of foods you offer them. How much they want to eat and do not use threats or rewards to encourage eating.
The child is the one who controls the eating and therefore it is not possible to know or decide for him how much to eat and whether he is full.
Instead model good behaviour and right portioning in your plate. Your child will see the types of food you are choosing and the quantity and will mimic that sooner or later.
Do not make dinner into a review session
Do not make dinner a battle ground. Or a tug of war. Or a review session where the parents go around asking and evaluation each kid.
Make sure the atmosphere on the table is light and positive. Where conversations can be free flowing.
Make you each kid gets time to speak and listed to. And avoid making comments or judgements.
Spend and Enjoy quality time with children
Prepare the food in advance. Try to have all the food on the table at the beginning of the meal. This will help you avoid unnecessary trips to the kitchen. And not distract you from concentrating on the children. That way you can enjoy real quality time without being busy operating the meal.
There is no doubt that many parents are trapped in the endless race of life, trying to combine career and family life, which is not a simple challenge. Do not miss great quality time with your child. Do not give up a family meal even if one of the parents is not at home, but make sure to have full family meals as well.
Dinner is a great opportunity for conversation, practice, and development of social and emotional skills. It is important that the parents start and share something that happened to them during the day, at home, at work, or in shopping.
This is how the children will learn to share their experiences with you as well.
Take an interest in them, ask them to share or ask them such open-ended questions. Try not to make dinner a place where problems are solved or quarrels, maintain a positive atmosphere around the table.
This way you will all get to know each other better. During the meal, the children receive listening, reinforcement, and support, which contributes to their self-image and strengthens their sense of belonging.
Family dinner as a source to strengthen a child’s personality. This simple activity goes a log way in building character and value in your child. So, understand this and use it wisely.
Hope this has been of help to you. If yes, please show love by sharing it with your friends and loved ones.
Let us know if you continue the habit of eating together as a family with your kids? Leave your comments below.