If you are like most people in America, mealtimes are a hit or miss where the miss typically wins. Nearly 59% of Americans report fewer family meals than when they were growing up. No real surprise here, our days feel longer, there is additional stress on the family unit, and the days of one partner working while the other maintains the home are long gone. Family meals have fallen by the wayside. Although most families could eat together at least 16 times during the week, only about 30-40% of families have dinner together.
The research is clear that children have the most to benefit from at least one family meal, but you could also benefit from sharing an in-home meal with a family member or close friend. Over two decades of research reveal the health benefits of breaking bread with family and friends. The benefits of course include physical health improvements, due to the reduced intake of unhealthy levels of salt, fat, and sugar in-home meals; but the benefits don’t stop there. Regular in-home meals provide mental health benefits as well. Family meals are associated with lower rates of anxiety, depression, and higher rates of resiliency and self-esteem. Family meals allow greater emotional intimacy, as they create a space of open communication and facilitate a sense of belonging.
The sense of belonging created during family mealtimes helps stressed individuals to co-regulate and reduce their anxiety, leading to healthier life choices over time. The benefit of family mealtime is apparent, but let’s not get overwhelmed and try to plan meals for an entire week. This new endeavor, should you decide to pursue will require intentionality and an agreed purpose. No one is suggesting that you have every meal possible with your family but pick one that might work. The goal here is connection; below find a few tips to help start making family time--
Don’t Overdo It?
Remember the goal is connection. The shared connection between you and your family helps your body to relax and your mind follows suit. One shared snack could be just as effective as a 5-course dinner in achieving this goal.
Think Small for Big Change
While honorable, shifting your entire schedule around for mealtime isn’t likely to be successful. Think about your weekly and daily routine. What would be a good day for you to have a meal with your family? What time of day would work best? We aren’t aiming for daily meals, just one meal once a week could foster that sense of belonging and purpose.
Disconnect to Connect
Make this time meaningful. Disconnect from your phone while spending time with your family. No, blue screen lighting your face and the people around you. Create a workable rule for mealtime. Ask the questions, would it be okay to bring the phone out to share a picture, video, or maybe even to solve a great debate?
Discuss your plan with the family— what are some ideas they may have about the meal? Maybe instead of a meal, you explore a few exotic fruits or try to make hand-rolled sushi. Whatever it is enjoy yourself and your family.
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