Do you want to make this summer matter for your family? One simple routine that can have profound effects on kids’ academic success and health is eating together as a family. In reading an article from the American College of Pediatricians, teens who have dinner with their families seven times a week are almost 40% likelier to say they receive mostly A’s and B’s in school compared to teens who have dinner with their families just two or less times/week. Children ages 9 to 14 who have more regular dinners with their families are 35% less likely to engage in disordered eating and 24% more likely to eat healthier foods.
The article also shared that teens who have less than 3 family dinners per week are 2.5x more likely to use marijuana, twice as likely to use alcohol, and four times more likely to use tobacco. In addition, they are more likely to experience depression and more likely to engage in dangerous activities.
So, knowing the importance of family meals, how do families make it possible when family members are heading in multiple directions? Here’s a few tips:
· Eating together as a family is the main thing. Family meals can mean family breakfasts or a simple
|Family meals don't have to be a five course meal, they can be breakfasts or even|
sandwiches on the back of a pickup too! Photo by Kari Lewis.
· At the beginning of the week, spend a few minutes to jot on a calendar everyone’s activities and plan a few nights when there can be a dinner as a family. Ask your kids if there is anything they would like to try for dinner and involve them in the meal planning. Meal planning will also help with grocery shopping as well!
· Allow kids to pick out fruits and vegetables in the grocery store. To help make the right choice the easy choice, give them two equally good options. For example, instead of asking what they want for a snack, ask if you should get apples or bananas, both good options. They are still involved in the decision making and picking out healthy items.
· Involve the kids in the process of family mealtimes. Kids can help set the table, prepare a salad, shuck corn on the cob, mix ingredients, and clean up afterwards. In fact, you may even pick one night a week when it’s the kids’ responsibility to choose the menu and cook. This is great training and helps the entire family take ownership of the family meal.
Summer is a great time to work on making a dinnertime routine to carry over into the school year. Teens with frequent family dinners are one and half times more likely to have an excellent relationship with their mother and twice as likely to have an excellent relationship with their family and siblings, so if you desire peace and harmony in the family, eating together is a great place to start!