Good food, great conversations and loads of laughs—that’s what family dinners are made of.
If busy schedules are making it hard for your family to land at the same place at the same time, take a “time out” to consider all the benefits of gathering around the dinner table. Family dinners are about more than just sharing a meal.
The fourth Monday in September (this year it falls on September 24) has been declared Family Day. Launched in 2001, A Day to Eat Dinner with Your Children by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University was issued a Presidential Proclamation by then president, George W. Bush. Since then, this grassroots initiative has turned into a national celebration supported by PTAs, YMCAs, faith-based groups, substance abuse programs, government officials and corporate sponsors.
By participating, you’ll be joining the millions of families who have made a pledge to eat dinner together on that day.
Trying to get everyone together for a meal—especially every day—can be difficult. But the benefits of eating together make family mealtime a tradition worth pursuing. Simply eat with your children whenever possible, even if it isn’t every day. Research by CASA/Columbia reveals that the more often children eat dinner with their families, the less likely they are to smoke, drink or use drugs. And the conversations that go hand-in-hand with dinner will help you learn more about your children’s lives and better understand the challenges they face.
BE CREATIVE. You don’t have to be sitting in a dining room at home for mealtime to “count.” Family meals can be shared at a restaurant, in a park or near a playing field. What does count is that you make the most of every opportunity instead of worrying about following a strict timetable. Simply eat with your kids whenever possible.
MAKE IT FUN. Eating flavorful healthy food is one of life’s greatest pleasures, especially when shared with family and friends. Focus on the positive when you’re at the table and save the lectures and “should haves” for another time.
KEEP IT SIMPLE. Save your elaborate gourmet menus for adult company. With the family keep the menus simple and enjoyable and you’ll find yourselves eating together more often because everyone will want to repeat the great experience.
KIDS INVOLVED. Let kids suggest menus. Teach them to help in the preparation process. Allow them to customize their own pizzas with different toppings or assemble their own salads or tacos.
CONTROL THE ENVIRONMENT. Turn off the television and radio. If the phone rings, let it ring. Shared positive meals are a time to take a deep breath, enjoy each other’s company, strengthen relationships and savor good food.
One thing is fairly certain: You will never come to the sunset years of your life, look back and wish you’d spent fewer meals with your kids.
Remember, September 24.
Question: Do you plan to celebrate “A Day to Eat Dinner with Your Children”? If so, tell us here.