The research is very clear and widely discussed — kids who eat regular family meals are:
• Twice as likely to get A’s in school
• 45% less likely to try alcohol and 24% less likely to try marijuana or drugs
• 32% less likely to have ever smoked a cigarette
• Half as likely to be highly stressed or suffer extreme boredom
What I love about these stats is that they confirm what I always knew deep down in my heart: Family dinners really do matter. I’m not just cooking and flinging food into a senseless void.
My second oldest starts her high school senior life tomorrow and my oldest just turned 19 last week and I can hardly believe how my two younger ones have grown so quickly. I find myself feeling rather triumphant about what those dinners mean to family life in our household, what family meal time traditions will they carry on as adults, and I marvel at the fact that against all practical odds – (sports practices, PTC meetings, band practices and piano lessons to name a few) — I somehow pulled it off more nights than not.
But actually getting the food on the table is just the start of it.
Once everybody sits down, how do you transform the tendency of teens to shovel in the food and flee? How do you get them to put away that cell phone and give their thumbs a rest from texting their friends for 30 minutes to an hour? And now that you’ve finally got everyone’s attention, it’s tempting to try and solve family problems between bites of beef stew. I am here to testify: If you want to promote proper digestion (and family unity), save those difficult discussions for another time. This is the time where you want to engage with your kids; find out what’s going on in their lives, what they find interesting or disturbing in their world.
So how DO we do it? Several obvious things – create a meal plan with the help of your family, get the kids involved in the prepping or cooking of the meal. Get them excited about family meal time and make the dinner hour non-negotiable and somewhat sacrosanct.
I’m sure there are tons of other ideas for getting teens to the table and keeping them there and I’d love to hear ideas from other families. How do YOU do it? Please post your ideas in the comments section following this post!