Decades ago, families sat at the table for meals as a matter of fact. Our harried lives today don’t leave us much time to enjoy this on a daily basis. But, no matter what’s for dinner, there are unquestionable benefits to regular sit-down family meals. According to an article by Harold S. Koplewicz, MD, president of the Child Mind Institute, children who sit at the table together regularly as a family are less likely to indulge in drugs and alcohol in their teenage years and are more likely to excel academically.
Sitting at the table as a family creates a sense of security in your child. It also helps establish a strong sense of self and stronger family bonds. The food itself is the least important ingredient. The focus is on sharing quality time and conversation, while learning manners and basic etiquette.
TIPS FOR SUCCESSFUL SIT-DOWN FAMILY DINNERS
Proper table manners, respectful conversation and the responsibility of cleaning up after dinner are key. Make sure the kids start off by washing their hands before every meal. Dinner time is a great teaching opportunity.
Try to have dinner at the same time every evening, and teach the kids the importance of coming to the table when summoned. Assign a seat to each family member so that there is no bickering about where to sit.
Unplug all electronics: television, cell phone, CD player, the computer, you name it.
Promote interaction and meaningful conversation. If you’re stumped for topics, ask each member of the family to mention one highlight of the day.
Read Related: 10 Manners Every Child Should Know
Teach the youngest ones basic etiquette: how to use a knife and fork, sit upright, not fidget and remain seated until the family is done with the meal. While enforcing good manners, maintain a relaxed atmosphere, as mealtime should not feel strained or perceived as something to be endured.
If there is something missing at the table, it’s likely your kids will be the first ones to notice so get them used to minding their P’s and Q’s when asking. Even better, teach them to excuse themselves from the table and go get what they need, whether it is a glass of water or a spoon.
While it may seem easier and more convenient to eat separately, in the long run you will be glad you took the time and effort to have proper sit-down meals. Your kids will be more socially adept and the bonds that you establish with them now will last a lifetime.