Monday, November 16, 2009

Principals Encourage Parents to
Turn Dinnertime Into
School-Home Connection Time


In the weeks ahead, many families will be gathering for Thanksgiving and other holiday celebrations. For some families, these special meals are a rare opportunity to sit down as a family. For school leaders, the upcoming occasions are perfect fodder for your school-to-home newsletters. They are an opportunity to remind your students’ parents about the importance of family meals.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, eating dinner together as a family every night keeps the doors of communication open between parents and children. Many studies bear out the importance of the family meal. Did you know that…
● mealtime is a rich opportunity for young children to learn words and expand their vocabulary?
● teens who have dinner with their families five or more times a week are almost twice as likely to earn A’s in school than teens who have family dinners two or fewer times per week?
● teens who sit down for frequent family dinners are less likely to smoke, drink, or use illegal drugs?
● children whose families watch TV as they eat family dinners are more likely to be overweight than those who aren’t tuned-in to television at dinnertime?

“Although hectic schedules have made family dinners a thing of the past, there is compelling evidence that sitting down at a table to share a meal is an ideal environment for family interaction,” said Laura Olson, vice president of education for Kiddie Academy International.

Olson notes that families should aim to sit down to a meal most nights of the week for a minimum of 30 minutes. For those parents wondering how they can make the most of family dinners, Olson offers the following tips, which you might share in your next school-to-home newsletter:

Be curious. Showing an interest in a child's likes and dislikes can result in the child feeling appreciated, respected, and emotionally secure. Ultimately, the child experiences a surge in self-confidence, which can positively shape his or her developmental progress in the classroom.

Get creative with conversation. Lively dialog is crucial to getting your kids to listen and share, so have all family members tell their favorite part or biggest challenge of the day. Not only will this give everyone a glimpse into each other's routine, but it will also help kids expand their vocabulary with new and intriguing words.

Be specific in your questions. Instead of just inquiring about the day at school, ask about a particular book the child may be reading or an art project he or she may be crafting. This will help the child foster ideas and opinions about the assignment that he or she may not have previously considered.

Let kids plan the menu. Getting children involved in the planning aspect of dinner gets them accustomed to thinking ahead and following step-by-step directions. Additionally, cooking is a great way to have them practice their math skills, such as adding fractions.

MORE RESOURCES TO SHARE WITH PARENTS

Make Mealtime Family Time
Make Mealtime Family Time™ exists to encourage families with children, including teenagers, to make mealtime a family time priority. The site includes many resources, including a set of 32 Mealtime Conversation-Starter Cards.

Get Involved: The Importance of Family Mealtime
This resource from the U.S. Department of Human Services explains why family mealtimes are important and offers topics families might talk about at mealtime.

NuNews: Nutrition News Your Kids Can Use
NuNews offers printable newsletters for parents on nutrition topics. These informative articles are perfect for printing on the back side of school lunch menus that you send home. Articles are available in both English and Spanish.

Strengthen Your Family Bonds by Eating Dinner Together
Print out and send home this brochure from the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension Division.

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