I know you’re thinking. Eat dinner with the kids EVERY night? ‘What! Noooo! Don’t make me do it!’ Feeding time at the zoo can be utter hell.
Don’t I know it.
You spend the entire time inhaling deeply, between “Don’t play with your food!” “Come back to the table!” “No, you can’t have ice cream until you finish what’s on your plate.” “Watch your hair!”
Before you know it, you’ve finished your own dinner, seemingly without swallowing once and a great deal of indigestion.
You look at your partner and roll your eyes. “Well that was pleasant. Not!”
But, hear me out mama, because apparently there are a whole lot of good reasons we need to have family dinner time with our kids (well at least once or twice a week). Even science says so.
7 Good Reasons to Bring Back Family Dinner Time
Let’s face it, instilling mealtime manners in kids can be testing, but it’s worth it in the end. You don’t want them heading to a friend’s house and sitting down to the table, using their fingers to eat their peas or speaking at full throttle with their mouth full (ahh yes, that’s a tough one to break)!
At the very least, family dinner time gives you a chance to monitor how they’re doing in the cutlery stakes and show them the correct way of doing things – at least when they’re eating away from home. No one wants to be thrust into an awkward dining situation where there’s more than one knife and fork and they don’t know which is which?
2. Table Etiquette
It might be fine to start eating first in your house, but other people might all sit down and say Grace or wait for the host to start eating first. At least you can demonstrate what might happen outside the home, so they’re prepared. Showing them how to have polite dinner conversation, set the table or take their plates to the kitchen after a meal, gives your children important social skills for the future.
3. Good Conversation
It can be excruciating, when food is flying every which way, but being engaged and warm with your children over dinner together, as opposed to controlling and angry promotes stronger relationships and family connections and can even decrease levels of anxiety in some kids. A study in New Zealand found teenagers have more positive moods if they eat with the family, while Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) analysis found students are more likely to play truant if they don’t eating with their family.
4. Healthy Mind, Healthy Body
It helps to know what’s going into that little body, especially when they’re little and partial to spitting out unknown substances! If they’re hidden away upstairs or in front of the TV, who knows what’s happening to that carefully prepared (thrown together) plate of goodness.
Studies show kids who eat regularly with the family consume more fruit, veggies, vitamins and overall nutrients. Teens are also less likely to become overweight.
5. The Family that Cooks Together, Stays Together
Ahhh, yes. The idea of allowing your toddler or primary school aged child to help cook can seem like far more hassle than it’s worth. Twice the work, twice the mess, right!
But – cooking together is seen as a great way to connect with your kids and teach them all about food and the different ingredients it takes to create something delicious. Why not take them along to the supermarket too (yeah, now I’m really pushing the boat out)!
Just think of the future, when those grisly grocery events and chaotic kitchen moments mean your kid can actually cook ‘you’ dinner! Heaven.
6. Brain Boost
I kid you not, researchers have found dinnertime conversation actually boosts vocabulary! Children learn more words eating with you (hopefully not those ‘adult only’ ones) than they do being read aloud to. For older kids, there’s a distinct link between family dinners together and academic performance.
7. Checking In
As well as connecting as a family, eating together gives you a chance to hear about their day, no matter how old they are. It’s a time when kids are more likely to open up about anything that’s on their mind. Maybe you’ll hear about that game they played at lunchtime or their music class. It’s a great chance for everyone to reflect on their day, even mum and dad. A survey found it’s the most likely time teens will talk with their parents.
Yep, sometimes it just seems all too hard, more hassle than it’s worth, or maybe you just want to sip that glass of sauvignon blanc in peace after a rough day, but consider eating at least two or three meals together. Even if it’s breakfast, the benefits are still there.
Of course, if you’re dealing with a fussy eater, family dinners might not be so relaxed, so you’re going to want to read our article packed with tips for dealing with picky eaters.