Meal Time is Feel Good Time

The simple act of eating meals together as a family has a very positive impact on your childrens’ well being.
Read our tips for how to make this a healthy routine in your home now.

Did You Know the Importance of Meal Time for Your Child’s Mental Health?

Many parents like myself will agree one good thing that resulted from the COVID pandemic was the extra time we now have to spend around the table with our children. Many of us were able to slow down and really enjoy that time as valuable bonding time with our families. For many of us, meal time wasn’t a priority before, but should it be? The answer is: Yes.

According to recent CDC findings, 1 in 5 children and teens struggle with some sort of mental health issue. Eating meals with your children is something we can all prioritize, and the science backs this approach as an effective way to support your childrens’ wellbeing. One study from The National Council on Substance Abuse and Addiction (CASA) concludes that family dinner time brings parents and children together emotionally and can reduce rates of teen smoking, drinking and drug use. 

Further, a wealth of research shows that when families gather around the table to share a meal, talk about their day, and take the time to connect with each other on a deeper level, remarkable things happen. Not only do kids feel more connected to the family, but they also exhibit better emotional health, get higher grades at school, and are less likely to engage in high-risk behaviors. With all of this in mind, I encourage all of you fellow parents out there to fight the urge to fall back into the busy mind set, and continue with family meal time.
Tips for making mealtime a positive experience:

1. Avoid distractions
Make mealtime “family time” by reducing distractions. While it’s tempting to turn on the
TV or use an iPad, it’s better to avoid doing so. When everyone pays attention at meals, they are more mindful of their eating,
and can listen to hunger and fullness cues. Take this time, while everyone is in the
same space, to enjoy conversations and check-in with each other!

2. Try to sit together in one place
Make it a habit to have everyone eat at the family dinner table. Skip serving them in
bedrooms, or separate spaces. Sure, it can be a difficult adjustment at first. But doing
so helps children experience the positive effects of mealtimes and build healthy habits.

3. Keep mealtimes short
Many children find sitting still for long periods difficult. This can be more difficult for
some children, such as those living with ADHD. Start with what your child is able to do
and slowly lengthen from there. Aim for 30 minute meals.

4. Make it fun and involve your children
Family meals can be something your kids look forward to. For example, have themed
meals like Taco Tuesday, or make your own pizza day. You can even have your
children take turns creating the menu for the week.

Here’s to Your Well Being,
Jodi Murphy, MSW LCSW
Licensed Therapist & Clinical Director / EMDR Specialist

[1] Sifferlin, A. (2012, April 24). Why Families Who Eat Together Are Healthier.
[2] The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.
(2012). The Importance of Family Dinners VIII. New York City, New York: CASAColumbia.