Does Anyone Have Family Meals Anymore?

The reality of family life is there is never a shortage of activities to attend, work to be done, or tasks to be completed. Family members often feel like ships in the night as they go from one activity to the next. If a family has multiple children and teens, it may be impossible to remember the last time the family sat down together. Aren’t family dinners something that went the way of the dinosaur? Does anyone have family dinners anymore? Are they really that valuable? Are they worth the energy it takes to make them happen? All of these questions are valid. Certainly, our busy lifestyles do not allow family dinners every night at 5 o’clock.

Even in the midst of several places to go, text alerts, YouTube videos, and other things that vie for our attention, it is still valuable for families to sit down together for a meal. Research has shown that eating together is an essential aspect of family life and provides various benefits to children and teenagers. There is power behind a sit-down dinner with everyone at the table. Dinner conversation can help children learn how to start and continue conversations. It helps them build trust, self-esteem, and coping skills.

Family Meals Boost Communication

Mealtimes provide an opportunity to visit with each other and enjoy good conversation. Children and adults learn the give and take of effective communication. Consider clearing away all distractions such as phones, tablets, & TV. Ask questions like, “What was one high and one low from today?” or “What made you laugh today?” If the family is reluctant to participate, set a timer and tell them they may leave as soon as it goes off. Dessert often keeps everyone staying till the very end.

Family Meals Support a Sense of Stability

According to The National Council of Substance Abuse and Addiction, family meals allow parents and children to join together emotionally and build a sense of stability and security. This has even been proven to reduce rates of substance use, such as smoking, drinking, and drug use. Taking 20-30 minutes 3x a week for family meals can help strengthen your children’s ability to choose behaviors that help them and turn away from harmful behaviors.

Family Meals Build Close Relationships

Eating as a family can help build relationships within the family. Spending time around the table can help your family grow together and make each other a priority, even in the midst of crazy schedules. One strategy to help make family meal time successful and to build a sense of relationship is to plan meals ahead of time. Take turns and divide up the meal planning amongst the family. Pair smaller children with older siblings or parents. You can even try a bit of healthy competition to see which team can make the best meal.

The goal of hosting family meals is to spend time together as a family. The time you have all living under one roof is short. How will you spend it?

If you need support and would like to speak to a professional counselor about topics such as the one featured in this blog and are in the Chicago area, please contact Olive Branch Counseling Associates, Inc. at 708-633-8000. We are at 6819 West 167th Street in Tinley Park, Illinois 60477.

Written By: Christine B., Masters Level Intern

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