Between work, school, sports, lessons, homework and socialization, today’s families are busier than ever. Many times, we may go the entire day without saying more than a couple of words to our spouse or our children. However, dinner time can be a time to reconnect with everyone in your family, and especially with your busy teenager. From prepwork through dessert, dinner can be a great time to reconnect, to ask about each other’s days, to work through issues and challenges, to tell stories and to enjoy each other’s company.
Why is family dinner important?
With busy schedules, including hours of homework and after school practices, it’s easy to be tempted to grab some fast food on the way from one activity to another. However, many studies over the past two decades have demonstrated the benefits of family meal time. For younger children, family dinner conversation can be a way to increase developing vocabulary and help children work through complex issues. With adolescents, the benefits are even greater, with some studies showing increases in self-esteem and school performance and a reduction in obesity, eating disorders, substance abuse, depression and teen pregnancy rates.
How can busy families find the time?
In many families, finding the time to prepare a home cooked meal and spend an hour or so at the table is a difficult task. Some studies state that eating dinner together five nights a week can produce the highest number of benefits. However, there are several ways of accomplishing a family meal time without sacrificing other activities.
– Use weekends for cooking
Finding time to eat together is easier if the cooking has been done ahead of time. Use the weekends to cook casseroles or soup that can be frozen and then reheated during the week or use the crockpot in the morning so that dinner is hot and waiting at meal time.
– Eat out together
If you really need to grab fast food, still make it a goal to eat together. One idea is to take the food to a local park and have a picnic, or if dinner is not possible, make it a priority to eat a post-practice snack together or go out for ice cream as a family.
– Make cooking a family activity
On days where you have some extra time, invite the whole family into the kitchen to help cook. Younger children can wash, peel, cut or mix ingredients, while teens can help prepare entire dishes.
If you and your family are struggling with reaching out to your teen, call us today for a free consultation. We specialize in working with you to find the best possible treatment for families struggling with challenging teens. Our services are free to you.