In today's hectic world, it is difficult at times to coordinate the multiple schedules of family members to do what was in the past something taken for granted----- eating meals together as a family. What happens then is that people tend to eat separately from one another and have fewer opportunities to connect as a family.
One of things we know is that children who eat regularly with their family have much lower rates of chemical abuse, teen pregnancy, and mental health issues just to name a few benefits. Surprising research from Jerica Berge at the University of Minnesota shows that it does not take many family meals a week to receive this benefit. In fact, she reports with as few as 2 to 3 meals a week eaten together as a family can help build a protective factor for children.
She reported that one of the biggest barriers to eating together was often parental stress. That is the more the parent was stressed, the less likely it would be that the family would eat together. Ironically, parents would then feel guilty that they weren't eating together as a family.
She reports the key ingredient to receive the benefit was not what was made for the meal or even which meal it was or even that all family members were there, but that it was eaten together. An added bonus is that children who grew up having family meals are more likely to do that with their own children.
All this is consistent with the research supporting consistency and connection as two important factors for creating healthy children.
Key take away
If you are not already doing so, strive to set aside 20 minutes for a family meal two times this week. You do not have to announce to your children that this is what we're doing unless you feel that would be helpful. The goal is to just begin doing it.
If you are already meeting or exceeding three meals together as a family, pat yourself on the back. One way you could step it up another level is to incorporate dinner conversation starters as part of your meals. These are fun questions posed at the dinner table that family members can answer. For instance, a potential dinner starter question could be "What are you most proud of that you have accomplished?" Or "If you could be any superhero who would it be and why?" This can help increase positive communication at the dinner table through the practice of sharing and listening to others.
I have posted a list of these conversation starters you can access on the resource page. Why don't you try this out today?