Reviving the Family Dinner

Reviving the Family Dinner

Having trouble getting the family together for dinner? You’re not alone.

Research shows that family dinners have declined by 30% over the past 20 years. Kids that have experienced childhood trauma are already at higher risk of obesity and unhealthy eating, so this decline is especially troubling.

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Family dinners help protect children against the toxic stress from Adverse Childhood Experience, or ACEs: This daily routine give children a strong sense of security. In addition, research suggests kids who eat five or more meals a week with their families are happier and less stressed.

Tips for reviving the family dinner

Here is some advice for busy parents from folks at the The Family Dinner Project , a non-profit based at Harvard:

Turn off the screens. This means cell phones, email, TV, and other devices. No matter how tempting, make a habit of not answering work calls during dinner.

Keep things simple. Remember those big batches of soup and casseroles our parents used to make? The nonprofit advises throwing some together on the weekend and freezing them to weekday family dinners easier.

Encourage everybody to pitch in. Even little ones can tear lettuce and set out napkins. Cooking together not only encourages family bonding, it lets kids practice their chef skills.

Be flexible. Your child has a soccer match? Bring a picnic and eat together there.

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Make it fun. Have the teens choose some music. If you have your little ones, encourage them to add spices and taste the food for you.

Don’t forget other meals. A nutritious breakfast is important for healthy kids — and another opportunity to catch up.

Make it count. Family dinners are one of the best times for togetherness. Tell stories, ask open-ended questions, and talk about your own childhood. Play games like two truths and a lie. Most of all, relax: Save potentially heated discussions for another time.

References

Benefits of the Family Dinner. (2014, May). American College of Pediatricians position statement. Retrieved from https://www.acpeds.org/the-college-speaks/position-statements/parenting-issues/the-benefits-of-the-family-table

Fuemmeler, BF, et al. (2009, August 22). Adverse childhood events are associated with obesity and disordered eating: Results from a US population-based study of young adults. Journal of Trauma Stress. Retrieved form https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2748336/