What is dinnertime like in your home? Is it convenient for family members to heat up their own meal in the microwave and then retreat to their own corners of the house? For many families, eating dinner together has become a lost art.
Why Are Family Mealtimes Important?
Parental influence and involvement is an important tool in preventing substance abuse and health problems. Regularly sitting down for a meal with your children is one way to connect with them and be involved with what is happening in their lives. You will be more likely to hear about a serious problem and your kids will have an opportunity hear you express that you are proud of them.
According to the American Dietetic Association, by eating with your children, it is more likely that meals will be healthier and more balanced.
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University found that compared to teens that have frequent family dinners, those who rarely have family dinners are three-and-a-half times more likely to have abused prescription drugs or an illegal drug other than marijuana.
The University of Minnesota School of Public Health found that girls who have five or more meals a week with their families are one-third less likely to develop unhealthy eating habits, which can range from skipping meals to full-fledged anorexia or abusing diet pills.
What Should We Talk About?
- Ask everyone to share their favorite part or biggest challenge of the day.
- Plan and then let the kids pick tasks for the next day’s menu, preparation, and cleanup.
- Exchange memories about your favorite family pastimes.
- Discuss an activity the family can do together and then put it on the calendar.
- Talk with your children about a book they are reading or a movie they have seen. It might turn into a family book club or a regular movie and popcorn night!
- Ask the kids about their classes, homework, teachers, and upcoming assignments. Find out if they would like your help or want to brainstorm on an assignment.
This is time for listening to each other, sharing the day’s stories, and nurturing the family connection. The benefits of eating together will last long after your meal ends, especially if you make family mealtimes a regular activity.
Tips on Grandparenting
Grandparents can provide significant support and encouragement to grandchildren. By using their breadth of experience as parents, they can teach children positive attitudes towards aging and help them develop skills to enhance their own lifelong learning. At the same time, it is an opportunity to watch children develop through all stages of growth; it is an invitation to learn about ‘their’ music and ‘their’ passions.
Grandparents may have the benefit of interacting on a level that is once removed from the day-to-day responsibilities of parents. This can make it easier to develop a close bond with grandchildren and to provide input from an expanded perspective.
Grandparents are often the family historians, and can add a rich sense of family tradition to a child’s life. Telling stories about games or trips shared when the grandchild’s parents were young is a great way to weave a ‘tapestry’ of shared experiences for the whole family.
Establishing some ground rules with your son or daughter is a good first step to a long and successful relationship with your grandchild. The AARP recommends that grandparents:
- Be clear about what role they want to have in the grandchild’s life.
- Check with the child’s parents before buying gifts for them.
- Respect the parenting decisions of their adult children.
Making the most of your grandparenting time
- Carve out one-on-one time. On occasion, spend time with individual grandchildren. It will give you an opportunity to bond, without competition for your time.
- See the sights. Concerts and plays, movies, science centers, libraries, museums, parks or walks in the neighborhood provide opportunities to be together and to exchange ideas and opinions.
- Play games. Board and card games are a unique opportunity to watch kids in action and to see how they operate in the world. Games also allow you to help your grandchild learn to be a good sport and play fairly.
- Stay in contact. Chat on the phone or by email especially if you are a long distance grandparent.
- Plan a movie night! Make a fort in the living room and watch movies with your grandkids; they will love it.
- Prepare a meal together. Kids love to cook! Your grandkids can be quite the little helpers in the kitchen and you will be surprised with their eagerness to learn.