“Are we eating together?” my 11 year-old son asks.
“But I have so much homework!” exclaims my 15 year-old.
“I wanted to watch Pretty Little Liars,” says the 13 year-old.
“Just make up your minds…,” whispers the almost 17 year-old under her breath.
While my middle-schooler is gung-ho about coming to the table to gather as a family, my teens are another story. Getting teens to the table and sharing a moment to eat together has never been harder.
Yes, I shop, plan meals, and cook balanced enticing dinners (most of the time). That’s not the issue.
The problem is the world is pulling my teens away from mealtime and from family togetherness. Demanding their time, their attention and frankly, their interest in being together.
If it were up to my teens, they would grab and go– grab something out of the fridge and go to their room to do homework, take it to the TV and watch a show, or sit in front of the computer. Don’t get me wrong, when they do come to the table they enjoy it. But the demands of today’s teen make it more difficult to carve out time to include family meals. And the idea of making the time is stressful…for everyone.
So I balance family meals and try to bring everyone together on a daily basis. How do I do it? Many times I serve dinner later to accommodate after-school practice. I try to have a meal ready to go when my kids roll in the door. I rely on the Crock pot, make ahead freezer meals, quick meals and other short cuts. I save the roasts and full complement of side dishes for the weekend, when time is freer. I always try to keep things pleasant and give everyone a voice (it’s amazing how once the teens join, they take over the conversation) around the table. With four kids, that can be a challenge of its own!
Research show that family meals are particularly important for teens, but not for the reasons you may think. Most justify getting teens around the table to improve their diet, help them eat healthier, and improve self-esteem. True, it’s all that, but even more. It’s the connection and camaraderie that comes from gathering at mealtime. Inevitably, this leads to building family cohesion. And it’s family cohesion that tips teens into taking fewer risks, seeking guidance, making good decisions and growing up to be a good citizen.
With all the pressures on teens, and the anxiety and stress that can result, coming together to share a meal can be a lifeline to unconditional love, support and guidance.
I think sharing family meals is worth fighting for! How do you share what’s good with your kids?
Written by: Jill Castle, MS, RDN
Published on: September 3, 2013
Updated on: February 13, 2016