It is not the table that makes the difference – It is YOU. It is the attention and positive patterns of communication you share with your children that impacts development and resilience to the pressures that plague today’s kids. Research shows the importance of the precious commodity of family time.
In today’s modern array of cultures and events, family meal time can be experienced in a variety of ways. On average, the family meal may not include sitting around the table together Monday through Friday at the exact same time. The family meal may be sharing a pizza on the road in between sports practices or recitals. Family time may be at breakfast. For younger members of the family it may be consistent dedication to story time.
Research has shown us:
- Parents who talk to their children about their activities an average of 15 minutes per day have children who are 67% less likely to try marijuana.
- Parents who have family meals five or more times per week are more likely than those who have fewer meals together to talk to their child each day about what they have done.
- Parents who have family meals together five to seven times are significantly more likely than those eating together four times or less per week to say they talk to their child “almost everyday” about what the child has done during the day (96% versus 89%).
- Parents eating together 5 or more times a week are slightly more likely than those eating together less often to have talked to their child about drugs (95% vs. 90%).
- Approximately six in ten children, regardless of number of meals shared, have initiated talks with their parents about drugs and alcohol.
The Partnership for Drug-Free New Jersey provides research, education and useful tools for parents and concerned adults. For free information regarding the 15 minute break program or other connections between family time, parent engagement and drug and alcohol prevention, check these websites:
No matter how busy you are, finding time to be together is critical to family development, even if it is a meal on the run. Now trying to make that on the run meal healthy and not a complete disaster, if you have to eat in the car, is a totally different challenge. Here are some quick tips to make the dinner on the go a cinch:
- Invest in a small cooler. Remember coolers keep things cold but they can also be “warmers”, so if you make something portable, like a hot dog, grilled cheese or leftovers in a wrap that should stay warm, wrap it in foil and put in it in the “warmer.”
- Buy some fun sectioned plastic storage container. Perhaps identifiable by child. It is an easy way to be a chef on the run. Each child can help make their favorite on the road dinner.
- Raw fruits andveggies are your friend – but fruit cut in sections is a child’s friend. Kids are more like to eat more fruit if it is cut and ready to go in kid friendly sizes.
- “Astronaut food” such as yogurt or applesauce in single serving tubs are great. Kids love them and they are great for an on the go dinner, but think of them more as small treats and less of a meal.
- “PB&O” That’s peanut butter and other. Skip the jelly and think banana, strawberries, apples, celery, carrots. Get creative.
- Cheese Sticks are the ultimate portable kid protein. Other options: a turkey roll or the versatile hard-boiled egg.
- Water is the best bet for hydration and for a clean carpet in the car.
For the more adventurous reader looking for other easy and healthy cooking ideas, check out these sites:
The important thing to remember is to talk and make time to have some family meal time. Table optional.