There are many studies on the importance of family meal time. For kids and parents the social activity of having a family meal builds closeness, better eating habits, confidence and helps with academics, physical and mental health and overall well-being. My favorite quote on the importance of dining together comes from the late Anthony Bourdain:
“We know, for instance, that there is a direct, inverse relationship between frequency of family meals and social problems. Bluntly stated, members of families who eat together regularly are statistically less likely to stick up liquor stores, blow up meth labs, give birth to crack babies, commit suicide, or make donkey porn. If Little Timmy had just had more meatloaf, he might not have grown up to fill chest freezers with Cub Scout parts.”
However, in a busy household nightly family dinner is not always easy (or even possible). With school, extra curricular activities and work schedules getting the family together is not a simple task.
What is important is that it is the time together that matters, not the meal. If a nightly dinner is not going to happen, strive for something like a proper Sunday meal with candlelight and all!
Another option, is skip the dinner idea altogether. Do family breakfast. 20 minutes together to kick-start your day with some proper triggered conversation starters:
“What is one thing you are look forward to today?”
“What is one thing that you are concerned about today?”
“Before we head out the door share one thing that was good yesterday and one thing that was bad?”
“What was one thing you did today or yesterday that helped someone else?”
The meal matters for the nourishment, but the conversation matters most. The conversation also needs to be with the kids talking (hopefully more than the parents)
When we share a meal, we often play a game. Some examples below:
Word association game: to help with vocabulary, state a word and then have your kids call out as many words with similar meanings.
The compliment game: each member states two things they like about other family members and they cannot be the same as what has been stated.
What happened today game: name one thing that made you happy, one thing that made you sad, one thing you did to make the world better and one thing you could have done better.
If you can- get around the table, enjoy a meal and each other. It is amazing what you will learn and enjoy about your family by making family meal time a priority.