22 Aug Kids Are Back at School—Now, What's For Dinner?
I know, I know-you just got the kids back to school-new backpack, lunch sack, locker decorations, school clothes, shoes, school supplies, a new haircut, perhaps. Your job is done, right? Not a chance.
See this picture above? Look familiar? I didn’t think so–the days of June Cleaver-esque family dinner are a think of the past–or are they?
With her insatiable humor and dramatic storytelling, my friend and colleague Jessica A. Bowhall, MBA, RD blogs about the importance of bringing the family back to the dinner table. Welcome, Jessica!
Growing up, I remember eating dinner as a family every night – Sunday through Saturday. Because our dining room was basically connected to the living room, we could watch TV while we were eating and as a child that was the best thing in the world! Eventually, as my sister and I got older, the TV was moved to the family room and we had to stare at each other while we ate. At the time, I didn’t see the point. We lived together so we could stare at each other whenever we wanted. But as I look back, I can see what my mom was doing. By taking the TV away, we started communicating more at dinner. Checking in with each other to see how our days went. If I was struggling with a math technique that day, dad would offer to help after dinner. This was also a time for us to just be together. Enjoying each other’s company and sometimes laughing so hard we cried when mom tried to tell us some of the jokes she heard that day.
Today in the US, we see a growing trend of busier lives, children on their own, and less family time. As a Registered Dietitian, I hear many clients talk about less time to shop, less time to cook and less time period. Along with less time usually comes less money. There is no money to eat healthy, eating at fast food is cheaper and quicker, and sometimes my clients just don’t like to cook. When they talk of their families, it is usually in a stressed tone as they aren’t quite sure what their kids have been up to and they feel their spouses aren’t taking their share of the responsibility.
Eating dinner together doesn’t have to feel like moving mountains. My parents’ commute from work was at least 45 minutes – one way. My sister and I were 4 years apart and had different schedules for after school sports and activities. We lived in the middle of nowhere, so finding a neighbor to help “carpool” was a bit tricky. However, despite all of this, we made it work.
Here are some benefits of bringing the family back to the table:
- Syracuse University studies show that eating together as a family is associated with happier marriages, improved childrens health, and stronger family ties.
- Family meals can hone a child’s social skills and teach them table etiquette and good manners.
- Dining together makes for healthier eaters. Kids who regularly eat with their families tend to have healthier eating patterns. They consume more fruits and vegetables and fewer fried foods, sodas, and saturated fat than kids who don’t share family meals, says the American Dietetic Association.
If fitting a family dinner into your schedule seems impossible, just try one day. Set one day a week with your family that you will all sit down and eat dinner together. One day is all it takes to start a trend. If you don’t have time to cook, look to restaurants that provide healthier options for take out. You’ll soon see that once you make the time to sit as a family you’ll be able to make the time for preparing the meal with your family.