Lesson Introduction & Overview
There’s lots of talk in the world of parenting about the importance of connecting as a family at mealtime, with good reason. Research shows that some of the benefits can include:
- better academic performance
- higher self-esteem
- greater sense of resilience
- lower risk of substance abuse
- lower risk of teen pregnancy
- lower risk of depression
- lower likelihood of developing eating disorders
- lower rates of obesity
Very rarely do adults encourage young people to take the initiative when it comes to family dinner (or another meal); the focus is typically on parents. This lesson helps young people become leaders of positive family mealtime communication and provides them with tips and conversation starter ideas.
- Introduce the topic – Depending on the maturity of the youth, ask and talk about a few of the questions below:
- How many of you have dinner or other meals with your family three times a week? More than that? Less than that?
- What are some things you like about family mealtimes?
- What are some things you don’t like or wish were different about family mealtimes?
- Family mealtimes, away from distractions such as media, are important for a variety of reasons:
- families that eat together regularly tend to be physically healthier
- relationships between parents or guardians and young people tend to be stronger
- young people do better in school
- families talk about important topics that might not otherwise get talked about.
Explain to young people that they can be important leaders in their families. Young people can encourage their family to sit down to eat together and have important or fun conversations. The rest of this activity is one way to do that.
- Brainstorm conversation topics. Have them write their ideas on slips of paper. You can also distribute the Let’s Talk handout that is included with this lesson. They can use it to spark ideas or can cut it up and use it as is.
- Create “Let’s Talk – Conversation Starters” jars or boxes. Give young people time to decorate their jar or box. Distribute the Let’s Talk handout for youth to cut into strips along the dotted lines. Each youth can then fill his or her jar or box with the strips and take it home for his or her family to choose a strip from the jar or box and start talking!
Reflection – Ask young people the following questions:
- What is their favorite food to have at a family meal?
- Why is this meal their favorite?
- Does it remind them of a special memory?
- Is it cooked by someone they love?
This activity turns the tables, so to speak, when it comes to family mealtimes. It puts young people in the driver’s seat. Adults are not always used to thinking of young people as leaders in their families, but giving them small roles like this can help them strengthen connections with their families as well as build important social and emotional skills that will help them in other areas of their lives.
Continuing the Conversation
Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English and Spanish so that families can practice an attitude of gratitude at home.
Additional Instructor Resources