Bond Over a Plate of Pasta - Los Angeles News | FOX 11 LA KTTV

Bond Over a Plate of Pasta

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Work, school, market, classes, laundry, cooking, dinnertime. WAIT.  Did I just include dinner in the 'to do' list?
How many times a week do you eat dinner with your kids? Is dinnertime a stressful time for you? Do the kids eat by themselves? Is the TV on while dinner is served? Does your family serve weekend breakfast to each family member individually?

Or, is mealtime the best excuse to bring the family together?

Eating together has enormous benefits for your family.  In this fast-paced era of technology, with long days of work for parents, dinnertime looks overrated. Parents feel rushed to feed the kids, rather than eat with them. Many moms have secretly told me that by dinnertime they are exhausted. The goal,  survive dinner and send the kids to bed quickly, so that "I can have some time to myself." Some dads have confessed that when coming home from work, the last thing they want to be bothered with is mealtime, and then… dishes. The sad truth is that studies show the average parent spends only 38.5 minutes per week in meaningful conversation with their children.

Dinnertime does not have to be a burden, nor does it have to be a component of your to do list. It can be a joyous time for bringing your family together with a few simple steps.

  • Make a date:  Schedule at least one family dinner, and one family breakfast, every week. Make sure everyone knows about it in advance, post it on calendars if needed, and most importantly, get excited about it.  Attitude is everything. You do not have to stress yourself about the meal itself. You can grab something and bring it home, but of course it is even better to plan the meal together. Or score some extra points and cook it as a family. You can decide.
  • No Gadgets:  During these family meals, put away any electronics.  Yes, this means no phones, iPads, Kindles, or any other gadgets, not even close to the table. No TV in the background, or music with lyrics (I find mellow music relaxing and not disturbing, but make sure it plays in the background.) With that said, no homework, mail, paperwork, or other distractions. Eye contact is the most important "gadget" in family meals.  You will be amazed how everyone will pay attention to each other, and of course to the food they are eating.

  • Curiosity and Communication:  Volunteer some information about your day first to establish a safe sharing zone. Only then, ask about the other person's day. Make sure to prepare some questions in the back of your mind. "How was your day?" is a very vague, non-inviting question. Ask open-ended questions with a focus, like, "What was really silly in school today?" Sometimes being in the quiet also invites questions. Be comfortable with the quiet.

Studies show that children who eat with their families are often at lower risks of having poor eating habits, weight problems, or alcohol and substance dependencies later in life.

Dinnertime is more than just serving food and eating it. It provides a great opportunity for genuine communication to take place.  Dinnertime can be a great place for children to bond, connect, and learn to become a contributing member of the family. Children can learn how to listen, conduct conversations, observe good manners, serve others, solve conflicts, and make compromises.

Take this opportunity to listen to your children.  Allow them to develop a healthy understanding of sharing life experiences. The decision to sit down and eat together is a decision to slow down and connect with each other. 

Our children model the behaviors they see in us. They learn to depend on you and on your verbal and non-verbal cues, instead of seeking from other, potentially less healthy sources. That's not all! Children who eat with their families tend to perform better academically than other children who frequently eat alone or away from home.

These are some significant benefits.

As parents we get the chance to model for our children the behaviors that will improve their own lives. Teach them important values that they will carry into adulthood, and pass onto their children. This begins in the kitchen, or even in the market. You will help your kids develop an understanding of the value of food, the work that goes into preparation, and an appreciation for the reasons why their parents go to work.

Thanksgiving is the perfect illustration for family dinners. It is about family gathering, listening, and being together. As Thanksgiving night approaches, with cooler weather and warm soups, what better time to explain to your kids the true meaning of having meals together. Discuss the benefits of having the family together with joy and love more often than once or twice a year.

 Most importantly, enjoy the process. It is a fun collaboration for the family. It's a time to sit, look into each other eyes, and connect. Your attitude is a very crucial part in making mealtime a success. The happier and more positive you are about it, the more enjoyable family dinners (and breakfasts) will be. Begin creating more memories and more healthy eating habits with your family. Your kids will thank you.

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