Family mealtime is one of the most important traditions you can introduce to your family. The time spent together over a meal gives your family time to communicate with one another. Taking time to encourage each other and more importantly, time to listen, builds a solid foundation of communication. Giving an individual room to express their dreams, hopes, goals and struggles increases their ability to discuss topics with confidence with peers. Building confidence in a safe space with family allows children to develop healthy communication habits early. At La Jolla Montessori school, we recognize the importance of mealtime bonding and have adopted family-style dining in our classrooms, providing a fantastic way for our children to connect and build strong relationships.
Communication benefits associated with family meals create a positive impact in various areas of a child’s life. One North Dakota State University study researchers examined the factors that predict strong family relationships. They found that frequent, positive family communication was one of the cornerstones of a healthy family life. The list of positive impacts may include setting a regular time to meet each day to talk with each other about thoughts and feelings, setting up opportunities to gain experience asking and responding to various questions, and having the chance to share stories and ideas from different experiences in life. Despite family mealtime being such a crucial time for young children to learn and grow into healthy individuals, many families have not adopted this tradition. This can easily change with a commitment from each member of the family. In fact, when kids eat with their parents, they are more likely to have more fruits and vegetables with a variety of foods, have a better body image, have fewer eating disorders and tend to become less picky eaters. The goal is to have at least one good enough meal together a week. If a family can make that happen, often more will follow.” Says Anne Fishel, Executive Director of the Family Dinner Project during the Harvard EdCast. Start this new routine by discussing a plan and time for gathering. Ask everyone to remove all distractions from the meal space, and most importantly, make it fun!
The benefits of children spending more time with parents over meals set the stage for young children to grow and develop into more successful individuals. The benefits continue into the teen years. In a Columbia University study, 71% of teens reported that catching up and spending time with family was the best part of family mealtime. Research also shows that children who regularly eat family meals together get better grades, are more motivated, and get along better with others. These benefits are lifelong, implementing this habit now sets your child up for future success in various aspects of their life.
There is no one right way to structure your family mealtime, if you are making the effort and sitting down with your kids at least once a day, distraction-free, you are doing it right. The most important thing to remember is to make the space safe and inviting. Allow your children room to grow, stay positive and be flexible. These slight changes can lead to huge impacts on your child’s communication skills in the future. Remember, the importance of family mealtime and the impact it will make in your child’s future.
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