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The Taos News




Family Dinners Are Important!

November 2014

How often do you eat together as a family? All the things you worry about as a parent could be improved just by sitting down to regular dinners! Having a family meal together even once a week can make a world of difference. We know this because research now helps us to identify the building blocks that high-functioning families share, and one of them is family meals.

It’s amazing to think that such a basic thing as eating meals together could have such a significant impact, but recent studies show that children who eat dinner with their families are less likely to drink, smoke, do drugs, get pregnant, commit suicide, or develop eating disorders. In addition, they have larger vocabularies, better manners, healthier diets, and higher self-esteem. It is also important to note that the amount of time children spent eating meals at home was the single biggest predictor of better academic achievement and fewer behavioral problems and was even more influential than time spent in school, studying, attending religious services, or playing sports.

Perhaps you are thinking you can’t possibly get everyone together seven nights a week for a home-cooked meal. Don’t become discouraged over that fact because even having joint meals as infrequently as once a week makes a difference. So, if you can’t have dinner together every night, aim for once a week. Or, if you don’t get home from work early enough you could gather everyone together at 8:00 pm for dessert, a bedtime snack, or just a chat about the day. If your weekdays are too busy, you could aim for weekends. Or, if you don’t have time to cook, try “Leftover Mondays,” “Mexican take-out Tuesdays,” or cook an easy scrambled eggs and bacon breakfast for dinner!

What you talk about matters even more than what you eat, so think about what you will be talking about when you sit down at the table. Some suggestions include using dinner as a time to talk about family. You could ask questions like: “Do you know where your grandparents grew up?” “Do you know where your mom and dad went to high school?” “Do you know where your parents met?” This is important to do because the more children know about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem, and the more successfully they believe their families function.

Other suggestions: On Monday you could present the word of the day and talk about it. On Tuesday you might suggest each person tell a simple story about their life. On Wednesday, each person could bring up something that is difficult for them and get suggestions from the other family members. On another night you could each talk about what happened that was bad or difficult that day and then go around again and say what happened that was good. Or you could interview one another about your day or some other topic. The ideas are endless once you start thinking about it.

We all know from experience that things can go wrong at dinner. However, that is no reason to avoid getting together as a family at that time. Usually it is unintentional errors that bring on the difficulties, and those can be worked out. Begin by eliminating television and other electronic devices while you are together at the table. Next, avoid power struggles with your children over food. Don’t grill your children for information about their personal lives. Discourage unnecessary conflicts that might arise. Don’t bawl your children out or criticize them while at the table. (Remember the maxim, “praise in public; criticize in private.”) And be sure to omit extended adult talk that leaves the children out. Finally, amidst all the hustle and bustle of daily life, remember that in the end, it’s not about the dinner, it’s about your family, which is central to every member’s overall happiness and well-being.
For more helpful information on family dinners go to www.thefamilydinnerproject.org


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