With our hurried schedules, it can be difficult it sit down as a family for a meal. I mean a typical weeknight at our house includes, multiple activities, late nights at the office, appointments and homework at a minimum.  That is the norm, but it doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Sometimes I’m amazed that we eat at all.

As a mom I have many priorities, some more important than others. But out of all of them, one stands above the rest, to sit down and enjoy a meal as a family as many times a week as possible. Sure, nutrition is important. But to me what is most important is having time as a family to connect with the absence of electronics, interruptions and other people.

I’m not saying that sitting down for a family meal has to happen every night or that this is even possible. But every family should make it a priority and teach their kids the importance of connecting on this level so that they can pass on this important tradition to their own family.

Growing up poor, there wasn’t a lot of food on the table, but we were at the table. I remember sharing many “tuna casseroles” as a family and knew that one day I would make sure my family sat down together. With schedules and priorities being challenged as they are theses days, many families have opted out of family meals altogether. I’ve met many of my boy’s friends who never sit down for a meal with their family and survive on take out or fast food drive-thru.  This just makes me sad!

While my boys challenge me often with regards to sitting down for meals, wanting to grab something quick, hang out with friends or get fast food, I insist that they sit down for a family meal at least half of the week, especially on Sunday evenings. Just last Sunday my son was whining about wanting to go out with friends and I had to say “no, we were having a family meal with his grandmother.” Him connecting with his family and his grandmother is far more important than “hanging with friends.” He will thank me later.

Aside from the obvious benefits of sitting down as a family (I.e., connecting, etc.) studies have shown that families who sit down together have a lot more going for them. Here are some things that you can look forward to if you make family meals a priority:

  • Improves Healthy Eating- Families who eat meals at least three times a week benefit nutritionally. Studies have shown a lower risk of obesity. Also, eating together gives you a chance to teach your kids about healthy food choices. Preparing meals together will ensure that your kids learn how to cook.
  •  Studies have also shown that kids that eat with their families engage is less risky behaviors like, drugs, smoking and alcohol. Mealtimes provide a platform for open communication and gives teens a chance to open up. I’m living proof of this! My teen has opened up to us about many teen issues over a family meal.
  •  Improves Academic Achievement – Family meals won’t guarantee A’s, but do give your child a better chance at performing well in school. Eating seven family meals together weekly increases the odds of seeing high grades by 40 percent, according to Columbia’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. While 7 seems high to me, if I can do 5 meals, I’m feeling pretty good like a total success!
  •  Improves social skills such as communication, taking turns and sharing.
  • Strengthens Family Relationships – Today, families spend many waking hours on the go, but meal time gives you a chance to slow down and be together.

While it’s easy to get caught up in the day to day hustle and bustle, taking time to enjoy a meal as a family is something that you will never regret and most importantly is something you can’t get back.  This quality time creates lasting bonds for years to come, strengthens much needed skills and allows you to enjoy what is most precious to you, FAMILY!

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