Wednesday, January 20, 2016

5 Benefits of Eating Dinner as a Family

Family Crab Feast
It's 2016 and it seems like our fast paced lifestyle never lets up. Some days as soon as I get done with work at 4pm, I'm zipping home for a quick bite to eat before rushing off to make my next all important meeting by 5pm. Oh yeah, on the nights that I'm actually off from after work meetings, there's sports practice, or some random friend that needs a hand. Before you know it, 10:57pm has arrived and it's time to get some shut eye. If you've ever felt out of sorts about finding that work life balance, you're not alone. The majority of families in America think it's not the norm to have dinner together on a regular basis. I feel like I'm constantly, doing a self-check to make sure I'm balanced in that area. Surprise medical bills and work demands make it hard to remember that work is not life. At the same time if you don't work, your life will be off track in many areas. So how do you strike just the right balance and stay connected with your family in 2016? I think the answer is dinner!
My wife and I made connecting a priority early on in our marriage. We put a great emphasis on shutting out the rest of the world during dinnertime/date night. Almost 12 years and 2 kids later, we still treat the dinner hour as something sacred. Now, you might be saying, I live in the real world and don't have time for that! Guess what? I live in the real world, as does the President. Recently, I watched President Obama's appearance on the reality show Bear Grylls. In that episode, he talked about how he now spends more time with is family than he ever has.
Mr. Obama stated, "It's actually my joy, my pleasure, because if I've had a day full of world nonsense, for me to be able to come home and just listen to the girls and let them tell me about their day, it just gives me a whole new perspective and renews me." 

Wow! The most important man in the free world finds his way home for a family dinner each night to connect with the ones that mean the most to him! Now obviously, no one can be home every night but the point is to make family dinner a priority. My family and I don't eat together 7 nights out of the week, but we do manage to enjoy  most of our meals together as a family each week. The majority of our meals happen at home, but we do go out as a family a couple of times a month (usually on the weekend). The point here isn't necessarily quantity but quality. If you can't do dinner together 5 nights out of the week, start with one. Any amount of intentional dinnertime (lunch and breakfast count too) you invest around the table with your family means more to them than you know. Check out a few benefits of eating with your loved ones.

1. Emotional Connection-We play the "High- Low" game after dinner. Whoever gets done eating first has to tell everyone about the High (best) part of their day and the Low (worst) part of their day. Our kids even added a new category-the silly part of your day. Each person takes turns. In the end we all feel a little closer to one another because we hear about something that happened in one another's "world."

2. Learn Together- Nothing makes a bond tighter than trying a new recipe with your wife and/or kids. There's never a time when my girls don't want to help fix a meal. The beauty is one day soon, they will completely take over the dinner duty!

3. Emotional Security-Kids who have regular dinner with their dad feel more stable emotionally. According to the 2012 Journal of Adolescent Health, these kids achieve higher in school and are less likely to do drugs or become promiscuous. 

4. Relaxation-We all have to eat on the go sometimes, but there's nothing quite like being able to enjoy a meal minus the stress. With all the craziness in your life, you deserve 30 minutes to an hour each day to be enjoy your food and those around you. I promise that you will feel less stressed if you make this a regular habit. 

5. Healthy Eating-If you're preparing a meal at home, it's most likely going to be healthier than fast food. If you're planning the meals together,  you tend to me more aware of whether or not the meal is balanced. So, family dinner could actually help you live longer!

If you want to see how other families are making the commitment to spend more meal time with their families, visit The Family Dinner Project, and let the fun begin.