Dinner should be more than just putting food into hungry bellies.
Dinner time is sacred family time. It is where your children:
LEARN TO EAT
Give them a solid foundation. Children learn how to eat from their parents. They aren’t born with developed palates. It is up to you to direct them. Get out of the habit of serving processed or commercially prepared foods. Serve simple homemade nutritious food with an emphasis on whole grains, lean protein, low fat dairy, and lots of fruit and vegetables. Healthy habits begin at home.
LEARN ABOUT CHORES
You are not the designated waitress, short-order cook, and dishwasher. Everyone, big and little, has to help. Assign age-appropriate jobs. Jobs promote responsibility and solidarity.
LEARN ABOUT MANNERS
Bad manners spoils a meal for everyone. You have to make table rules and then enforce them. Children aren’t born with manners. They have to be taught. Be patient. This takes a LONG time!
CONNECT AS A FAMILY
The family table is a golden opportunity to connect with the people you love most. Take time. Don’t rush through the meal just to “cross it off” your list. Taste the food. Talk. Listen.
People have been cooking family meals since the beginning of the human race. How hard could it be? Figure out a way to make it happen.
A note on the impact of regular family meals:
“This nation’s drug problem is all about kids. A child who gets through age 21 without smoking, abusing alcohol or using illegal drugs is virtually certain never to do so. And no one has more power to prevent kids from using substances than parents. There are no silver bullets; unfortunately, the tragedy of a child’s substance abuse can strike any family. But one factor that does more to reduce teens’ substance abuse risk than almost any other is parental engagement, and one of the simplest and most effective ways for parents to be engaged in teens’ lives is by having frequent family dinners.”
Joseph A. Califano, Jr., Chairman and President CASA (The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University