Having dinner as a family is important. With so many schedules and time constraints I know this can be a challenge. But the benefits are so important. Studies have found that sitting together as a family for a meal is a simple, effective way to reduce the risk of youth substance abuse and to raise healthier children.
• Compared to teens that have frequent family dinners, those who rarely have family dinners are three-and-a-half times more likely to have abused prescription drugs or an illegal drug other than marijuana.
• Girls who have five or more meals a week with their families are one-third less likely to develop unhealthy eating habits, which can range from skipping meals to full-fledged anorexia or abusing diet pills.
• Parental influence and involvement is an important tool in preventing substance abuse. Regularly sitting down for a meal with your children is one way to connect with them and be involved with what is happening in their lives.
If sitting together really is impossible because of conflicting schedules there are still some things you can do. If your kids come home late from football practice, you and your husband can and should still sit with them while they have their meal. Sit down with a cup of coffee or dessert while they eat and talk with them. Use the same concept with your spouse. If he/she tends to come home 3 hours after you and the kids have had dinner, you can all sit with them at the table while they eat. Give the kids a nighttime snack while Mom/Dad is eating their dinner.
Talk with your children at the table. Discuss their day. Have each member of the family share their favorite part of that day and what was the hardest part of their day. Information and knowledge is power. Knowing whats going on in our children's lives is part of our job. Turn off the television. Get rid of distractions that take away from the discussions at the table. Talking to our children is important, but listening is just as important. Make the time special. Make it a time everyone in the family looks forward to. Here's some more tips to get you started.
Set a pretty table. Show that this is important to you. Use dishes, not paper plates. Set the table properly. This is a good time to teach your children how to set a table the proper way. You would be surprised how many kids have no clue what side of the dish a fork should go on, or where to place the drinking glass.
To set a basic table, you will need a dinner plate, glass, knife, fork, spoon and napkin. Heres a quick look at a casual but proper place setting.
- A simple centerpiece, salt and pepper along with any other seasonings or condiments your family enjoys is a wonderful finishing touch.
- Placemats or tablecloths are also a pretty and easy extra.
- Place the dinner plates one inch from the edge of the table. If there is a pattern in the middle of the plate, make sure that it is right side.
- Place the knife on the right side of the plate, blade inward, one inch from the edge of the table, handle end of knife at the bottom. Make sure the knife is next to the plate, not underneath the plate.
- The tablespoon is placed next to the knife, also one inch from the bottom of the table.
- The fork is place on the left side of the dinner plate one inch from the edge of the table, making sure it is also next to the plate verses underneath the plate.
- The napkin is folded in half and placed next to the fork with the crease farthest away from the fork.
- The glass is placed directly above the knife approximately one inch.
Centerpieces can be simple or elaborate, or fun and festive. Table setting themes are easy with seasonal items and seasonal napkins. Seasonal salt and pepper shakers can be purchased inexpensively. A bouquet of flowers, a ceramic object, pinecones, a toy, leaves, fruit, and almost anything else can be used as a centerpiece. Let your children take turns at picking out centerpieces or creating them! Children love making simple placemats from construction paper to go along with a theme. They can be colored, painted, or stamped. This is something the little ones can do while you prepare dinner.
When my children have friends over for dinner, almost all of them ask "do you eat like this every night?" They are amazed that we have dinner at the table, that its a homemade meal and that they actually enjoy it. I've had some of their mothers actually call me and ask how I do it with all the different schedules and time frames of everyone in the family. Simple I tell them. I make time. I am not Martha Stewart, don't get me wrong. We don't have to have a full dressed turkey dinner every night. We can even make a pizza night fun and memorable. Set your good china and stemware on your dining room table instead of the kitchen table. Get out the cloth napkins, pour gingerale into your stemware and light some candles. Pizza served in the dining room can be a fun and easy treat for your family. Its all about making the time and the effort. Sure its easier to grab some take out, set out some paper plates and call it a meal. But its not special, and its not going to create any lasting memories for your kids. Just a little more effort on your part and it will make a big difference in what our kids remember when they are older, and what they will continue on when they are parents.
Don’t let your kids just grab a plate and go to where ever they want in the house. Sitting together for a family meal is becoming a lost tradition. This is a great time of year to start getting back to the table. With the colder weather we can prepare good comfort foods, and gather around the table to share our days and to create tradition and memories for our children.