Don’t Skip Dinner with the Family. : ThyBlackMan

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Don’t Skip Dinner with the Family.

December 12, 2018 by  
Filed under Health, Opinion, Weekly Columns

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( There is so much information out there on how to raise healthy, happy children.  Kids that do well at school, don’t get involved with the wrong crowd, and stay positive through all of life’s challenges.

It doesn’t get mentioned much, but the single thing you can do to get a whole host of benefits is to sit down as a family for dinner every evening.  Now, I know with a lot of dual-income families (and a lot of parents who work two or even three jobs), that can be a big ask.  However, the benefits (backed by science) that I describe below will have you convinced.

Now, to be clear, you don’t have to make dinner at home (although that’s usually the healthier and cheaper option).  As a matter of fact, in my house we often order one of the Wegman’s catering platters (or one from Walmart or Costco).  The price is pretty reasonable, the food’s delicious, and each platter usually lasts for 2-3 dinners.

But the best part is that we save a ton of time food shopping, cooking, and cleaning up… which means we have time to sit together and eat.

Why is that so important to me, you ask?

Eating dinner together as a family improves your child’s vocabulary much more than reading to them at night does.  Young children are exposed to more than 1,000 difficult words during dinner conversation, and less than 150 during story-time. Also, dinner topics can range from sports, to politics, to current events, to simple stuff like something funny that happened today at work (or school).

Eating meals together is also correlated with twice as many A’s than families who don’t eat together, and significantly higher standardized test scores.

Want your kids to be resilient and protected against depression? Eating 5-7 meals together as a family (this can be any meal, but dinner is usually the easiest) is also linked to lower rates of suicidal thoughts and depression among teenagers. Another study demonstrated that kids are much more likely to bounce back from difficult experiences, such as being bullied or teased by their peers, if they regularly chow down with their family.

One of the strongest benefits of eating together is the reduction in high-risk behavior.  Eating together as a family helps keep your kids away from smoking, doing drugs, binge drinking, being violent, and sexual activity.

The key to all these benefits is to sit down at least 5 times per week for a meal. But that by itself isn’t enough. You need to make sure to create a comfortable environment where sharing your thoughts, stories about your day, and just communicating in general is accepted. One of the best things you can practice as a parent is listening without offering advice. In general, setting a mood of laughter, openness, and kindness is the key to getting these benefits.

I find in my house that if we’re not forced to cook and clean up, there is so much less tension and stress around dinnertime (or breakfast too). Most of the stress we feel is related to time pressures, so making it easy to save time makes a huge difference in the entire outcome for each meal.

Obviously, you should try to make sure phones, TVs and other screens are all off during mealtime.  This is something we struggle with, especially if what we’re serving isn’t our kid’s favorite.  We’ve been able to work through this issue by letting our kids take turns choosing a music playlist instead of keeping the television on throughout the meal.

Staff Writer; Karl Brown


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