Parenting

Research Confirms a Family Connection is Crucial–Not Complicated, Just Set the Table!

March 30, 2017

I know a guy who grew up eating takeout his whole life. For as long as he can remember everyone in his family just got what they wanted and ate when they felt like it. It became his habit to eat what he wanted when he wanted it. As a result, at 5:00 p.m. every day he subconsciously starts thinking about what he is going to pick up. By 6:00 p.m., he is craving his vision and that’s when he arrives home and announces to his family what he is going to eat. 

His wife gave up trying to plan dinner. And as their children grew, they all started eating whatever, whenever. 

The reason families don’t eat at home or together is obvious–we’re all busy and it’s so convenient. But what is not so obvious is that when we fail to eat together as a family we are sacrificing connection for convenience. {Tweet This} Research shows that a family connection has crucial benefits for your child’s well-being. A Cornell University study reported the following: 

The take away message from this study is that youth who engage in more frequent family meals tend to have lower depressive symptoms {Tweet This}…Evidence suggests that children who take part in family meals are less likely to be overweight, have less delinquency, greater academic achievement, improved psychological well-being, and positive family interactions.

There is a connection that happens when we eat together! And here is the good news–it’s not complicated. Nowhere in the report does it specify that what you serve is a factor. That means you can take advantage of convenient takeout. All you have to do is set the table and eat it together. 

Think about this, it really only takes five minutes to set the table, but it makes a huge statement to your family. It visibly announces that dinner is about to be served.  If you set it, they will come! If you put the food on the table, they will eat it together. And if you print one of the dozens of our iMOM Conversation Starters and ask questions during dinner you will connect in conversation. We also have a table setting printable to teach your child how to set the table.

The study concluded with recommendations. Use them as a guideline for your family meals: 

1. Set a goal for three meals per week.

The routine of family meals can generate feelings of closeness and comfort. Even when mealtimes feel hectic or disorganized, take comfort in the fact that the simple act of regular mealtimes may be providing your child with stability and a family connection.

2. Protect your meal from outside distractions.

Turn off the TV and cell phones and ask questions to your children about their day, school, friends, goals, etc. Researchers note that family meals may provide a unique context for parents to connect with and share important information with their children.

Lastly, in my opinion, family meals develop in your child a craving for the home that you provided. I most often go for simple family meals but for birthdays I go all out. I cook what the birthday child wants and serve it how they want it. Over the years they have developed specific themes. For my Megan, who is married, elegant, and a foodie that requires a lot of effort but she treasures it. So much that she and her husband were home for her birthday last month.

creating a family connection at dinner

When a grown child will travel just to celebrate around your table it is worth every second of effort! This blog post was inspired by my co-workers because they saw this picture of my table. They are young like my daughter and appreciated the labor of love. Your child will too whether it is complicated like Megan’s or simple like the meal I am cooking for Emily’s birthday tomorrow. She likes breakfast for dinner!

How do you keep your the family connection strong in your house? 

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