Mention “Family Dinner,” and the brain flashes on a black-and-white “Leave It to Beaver” re-run, with June Cleaver hovering in a starched apron; or a chaotic “Brady Bunch” episode where Alice dashes in and out.
Today is the 10th annual ‘National Family Day, A Day to Eat Dinner with Your Children.’ The event aims to help put family dinners back into life’s daily routine.
Kids who frequently eat dinner with their families are less likely to smoke, drink or use illegal drugs, according to research by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.
Teens who eat five or more dinners a week with their families also reported stronger relationships with their parents and better academic scores, a CASA Columbia study announced this month.
CASA Columbia started ‘National Family Day, A Day to Eat Dinner with your Children,’ to spread the word.
It’s not about table manners or home cooking — take-out or pizza can work just a well as pot roast; according to researchers, the key is being together, listening and talking with kids about things that matter.
Teens and parents both reported that they don’t eat together more often because they’re busy and have different activities. But 38 percent of teens, compared to just 19 percent of parents, said work commitments or late shifts were to blame.
Rochester mom Debra Koss, publisher of KidsOutAndAbout.com, said parents shouldn’t feel guilty for having busy families. In her newsletter she said Rochester parents already know family dinners are good, but lack time to create them.
“Here’s what we really need: nutritious, delicious shortcuts!” she wrote
Koss’s article, “Practical Solutions to the Problem of No Time to Cook,” lists a dozen quick dinner recipes pulled from DisneyFamily.com, a Mendon-based food blog and Koss’s own crock-pot pot roast.
The blog Super Healthy Kids also offers wholesome recipes for every meal.
Going out? Many Rochester-area restaurants are kid-friendly. A few of them offer ‘kids-eat-free’ deals: Aja Noodle Co. (Tuesdays), Bazils (Mondays) Denny’s (Tuesdays/Thursdays), Zebb’s (Sundays). Specials change, so it’s a good idea to call ahead.
For many families it gets more complicated than just juggling the cook’s day job, however. When one or both parents work late, a young child goes to bed early and older children have games, practices and rehearsals — the schedules don’t always mesh.
Perhaps it’s time for Plan B: The Family Breakfast. Nutrition experts have long hailed breakfast as the most important meal of the day, and it has the advantage of coming first — before the craziness of school and work rip the reins out of parents’ hands.
Breakfast can be simple as simple as cereal and toast, or as complicated as breakfast quiche with challah bread. An egg casserole or sweet rolls made or purchased on the weekend can be enjoyed all week.
If dinner’s not on the agenda and breakfast isn’t your style, don’t despair — the key, again, is for parents to be involved with their kids.
“Remember the magic that happens over family dinners isn’t the food on the table, but the communication and conversations around it,” Kathleen Ferrigno, of CASA Columbia, said in a statement. “Creating opportunities to connect is what’s important.”
Mealtime activities and conversation starters for parents with teens are on the CASA Columbia Family Day Web site.