For decades, families gathered together every evening for dinner. When the parents got home from work, when the kids got home from school, dinner was prepared. In some cases, it was something simple. In others, it was a big, elaborate meal. Sunday was also a big meal day for families. Sunday dinner often included the grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Families would get together, sit down, and break bread. Today, family mealtime isn’t as popular as it once was.
Families today are busier than they once were. Many children are in sports that practice after school, around dinnertime. Some parents have to work late, and some have second jobs. Because the families of today are so busy, family dinnertime is not as popular as it once was. Over the last 20 years, family mealtime has declined by 33 percent. This is a bad thing. Sunday dinners: Why this important tradition needs to make a comeback.
Children who eat with their parents tend to have better relationships with their parents than those who don’t. According to a report published in April 2012, in the Journal of Adolescent Health, kids who eat meals with their families have fewer issues. The study showed that frequent family dinners could result in fewer emotional and behavioral issues. Children who eat with their parents tend to trust them more. They also treat their parents better and have better psychological well-being. When kids come home from school, and they sit down with their family at the table, they are more likely to discuss the problems of the day. Kids who come home to an empty house and a TV dinner in the freezer don’t have this chance to speak to their parents one-on-one. This can make it more difficult for them to open up when there is something serious going on. Better relationships are the only benefit of eating together as a family. According to Anne Fishel, Ph.D., eating together with the family can lower depression rates, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse, and fewer behavioral problems in school.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health conducted a poll to find out why families don’t eat together. The results of the survey showed that the parents who didn’t eat with their children on a daily or weekly basis couldn’t do so because they were too busy. When the family’s schedule just doesn’t line up, it can be challenging to find time to share a meal together. Almost 50 percent of the families surveyed admitted that eating together regularly was difficult. Less than half of the families who participated in the survey reported eating together six or seven nights.
Eating together as a family can also benefit your children physically. If your kids are forced to fend for themselves at dinnertime, you can’t be sure that they are eating right. Most kids would love to replace a chicken dinner with three scoops of ice cream. Doing this every night can result in weight problems. The same is true if your kids are living off Hot Pockets and TV dinners. These foods taste great, but they don’t contain much nutrition. When the family eats together, it is often a healthy, nutritious meal that includes a protein, a starch, and a vegetable. Just eating together one day a week can improve your family’s physical health.
Preparing Meals for Busy Families
When parents don’t cook a big dinner when they get home, it is usually because they just don’t have the time and energy. Preparing a healthy meal for the family on a work night doesn’t need to be as hard as it may seem. There are crockpots on the market today that can be controlled from your Smartphone. If you prepared the ingredients the night before and put it in the refrigerator, you can plug in the crockpot in the morning, and control the temperature during the day while you are at work. When you get home, you can have a complete meal ready for your family to eat. If you don’t know what to put in the crockpot, there are hundreds of recipes online to choose from. You can serve your family a different meal every day of the year, and you will still have plenty of new recipes to choose from.
If your family just cannot handle a weeknight dinner together, there are other meals that you can share. If you have time in the morning, have a family breakfast. If you have Sundays off, you can bring back Sunday dinner, and include the extended family. Even if it is just lunch on Saturday, it will be worth it. Considering how much a family meal can do for your children, it is worth trying to have at least one meal a week together.