Researchers have confirmed what parents have known for a long time: Sharing a family meal is good for the spirit, the brain, and the health of all family members. Anne Fishel, PhD, cofounder of Harvard’s Family Dinner Project
Thirty-five years ago, my son, Dan, returned home from junior high and asked, “Did you know that most families don’t eat dinner together?” Apparently, his health teacher had asked how many in the class regularly had dinner with their families and he was only one of about three to raise his hand. He just assumed everyone ate dinner together every night. All these years later, the family dinner is even more of a relic.
Yet, research links family dinner with lower rates of substance abuse, depression, better grades and enhanced self-esteem. Here are a few tips to make family dinner happen.
1. Make the commitment. Start with one meal, find a date that works, and put it on everyone’s calendar.
2. Keep the food simple. Even healthy take-out, when eaten together, is a step.
3. Make the meal time fun. This isn’t a time for grilling kids about grades or family arguments. Stash the phones, look at one another, and laugh a lot!
Affirmation: My family benefits when we eat together.
Coaching questions: What keeps your family from eating meals together? What can you do to change this circumstance at least once a week? How will you get buy-in from the others? How committed are you?