Well-intentioned parents want their children to learn life skills, build confidence and experience new opportunities. We all want the best we can provide for our children. When you live in a bustling community you fear your child may fall behind. And yes, we want to impress others with the success of our children. It is natural! We all do it!
Ask yourself, “how many days a week is the whole family having dinner or breakfast together?” If the answer is less than 4, your family is overscheduled. If your family fits the less than 4 family meals you may wonder, so what’s the big deal about eating together, anyway?
The benefits of eating a meal together are numerous. Young children learn the art of conversation at the dinner or breakfast table. Conversations are a group project with each person interspersing a tidbit here and there. Even babies will interject a babble or two. Children learn to take turns listening, really listening, and talking. They learn what interruption means. People reflect on their day, share their hopes and verbalize their fears of what’s to come.
Eating together becomes more important as your child ages. In addition to maintaining relationships, it enhances empathy, understanding and love. Children learn to make positive dietary choices that last well into the future. It also provides time to be together – QUALITY TIME.
Children and families become overscheduled. There are detrimental outcomes of children being overscheduled including:
• not having time to do nothing, to think, or be creative
• just not feeling well, or sleeping well, moody or anxious
• less enthusiasm for life in general
• older children dropping grade point averages
• no time for best friends
• YOU are tired, too!
What can you do? Start by eliminating one activity a week. Limit the extra-curricular activities during the school year to be two per person. Let your children make the choices to make sure the motivation is from them and not entirely from you. Make a commitment for one session or one semester at a time.Make your family meals an activity. Each can take a turn planning the meal, making a list and shopping for ingredients. Preschool children learn executive function skills and math concepts by planning, and organizing a meal and by setting the table. Making table linens choices, matching patterns, and organizing utensils is all preparation for reading and math. Family meals can become a highlight of the week. Your family will be healthier and happier as a result.