I’m sure you have heard many times how important it is to have meals together as a family. But did you know how much of a difference this small habit really makes? Recent research has shown that children who eat dinner with their families are less likely to drink, smoke, do drugs, get pregnant, commit suicide, and develop eating disorders.Additional research found that children who enjoy family meals have larger vocabularies, better manners, healthier diets, and higher self-esteem. One report in particular, claims that mealtime was more influential than time spent in school, studying, attending religious services, or playing sports!
Wow, so when we look at it that way we realize just how important family mealtime is. But hey, I know that between work schedules and activities, it can be downright impossible to find time for a sit down, family meal - every single day. So keep in mind that it doesn’t really matter when you get that family time in, and it doesn’t matter if you slaved over the store for hours for a big fancy meal. What really matters, is that your family has an opportunity to connect, a safe place to unload their thoughts and concerns and a chance to build that important bond.
So once we’ve chiseled out some time and are gathered as a family, how do we get everyone to talk? (Ever tried to ask what your child did in school today, only to get a ‘nothing’ or shoulder shrug response?) Here are some ideas to get the conversation started:
Play the “would you rather” game:
Each family member gets to pose a “would you rather...” scenario and the rest of the family gets to answer. All kinds of interesting discussions can arise from this one, trust me!
Word of the day:
Every time you sit down for supper together, one family member gets to pick a word from a dictionary, read it’s description and everyone gets to come up with a sentence, using the new word. This is a great way to widen everyone’s vocabulary, and it can get pretty funny too!
Ask their opinion!
This is particularly important with older children, but just as useful with younger children. Voice a dilemma and let your child give their opinion and explain why they feel that way. Often times, teenagers in particular, will feel “judged” by their parents. They don’t want to tell you how they feel or what they think because they feel that you will hold it against them or judge them. This is a great opportunity to let them have the floor in a safe and neutral situation, where you can just listen and observe your child. Examples for dilemmas are current news stories involving kids, like school policies enforced elsewhere, or a social media dilemma. Thefamilydinnerproject.org offers lots of great articles that can be used as discussion material.
Conversation starters - These questions can be great to get the conversations going:
- What is the best thing about being # years old?
- What is the hardest thing about being # years old?
- Do you think your name suits you? If you could pick a different name, what would it be? (Also great opportunity for you parents to tell the story of why you picked the names you did for your children)
- If you joined the circus, what would your circus act be?
- If you gave each emotion a colour, which colours would represent which emotion?
- If you could invent a machine to do something in your life, what would it do?
- What is one thing you would like to learn to do in the next year?
- What will be different in year 2050? What will stay the same?
I hope that these ideas will give you the inspiration to increase the time spent as a family every week, and I promise you will start seeing the difference in your family!