No time for family dinner? Try family breakfast.
Despite your best intentions, soccer practice, ballet lessons and swim team have once again interfered and turned family dinner into meals on wheels. The last thing you need as single parent is more stress and guilt piled on but we’ve all heard the reports extolling the virtues of family dinner. Children in families that eat dinner together five or more times a week are less likely to be involved with drugs, engage in promiscuous sex, make better grades in school and are more likely to secure world peace and cure cancer. Before you throw in the white towel and make a reservation for your back seat eater at the juvenile detention facility, consider an alternative – family breakfast.
In the evenings, kids are often going in different directions with you as the unpaid chauffeur leaving no time for the Norman Rockwell picture perfect sit down family dinner. Mornings are a great option as a time to connect as a family. Yes, you may have to give up 30 minutes of valuable sleep but what you gain will be the chance for your family to start the day on a positive note, physically and emotionally.
Just as there are studies supporting the importance of family dinner, there are also studies showing that children that eat a healthy breakfast are able to concentrate better at school, have higher standardized test scores, a heightened ability to problem solve and better muscle coordination. In addition, children that eat a healthy breakfast are less likely to be overweight.
Although an occasional stop for donuts on the way to school is a nice treat, it’s not a good idea to do on a daily basis but you also don’t have to cook a gourmet breakfast every morning. A breakfast that consists of a mix of protein, complex carbohydrates and a little fat is a healthy way to start the day. What does this translate into? A small multi grain muffin, two strips of bacon and some blueberries would be a good choice. Even easier would be a toasted slice of whole grain bread with peanut butter and half a banana. If your child is a picky eater and not into breakfast, think about a smoothie made with fruit, almond milk and a handful of spinach.
Even more important than the physical benefits are the psychological benefits. After you get over the shock of waking up a few minutes earlier, you will reap the benefits of spending time together and setting a positive tone for the rest of the day. It’s a great time to talk about what the day holds for each family member, discuss any problems or special challenges being faced and a chance to go over the list of spelling words one last time. If you have a child that tends to forget things, a daily checklist to go over what they will need that day at school would be helpful. Our family also used this time to do a quick devotional and read a daily Bible verse.
Family meals are great but there is really nothing magical about dinnertime, it’s the time spent together that is the crucial element. If evening isn’t working, try breakfast as your main family meal. Once you get in the routine of getting up earlier the positive aspects of connecting with your kids at breakfast may make a morning person out of you after all!