Finding the time to sit down together as a family at mealtime almost seems impossible these days. Yet dining out with your children is part of the socialization process for which all parents are responsible. However, as children get older, it becomes more difficult to find time to spend together as a family, particularly in the single parent household. Nonetheless, nearly half of the children surveyed in a recent national study reported that spending time with their parents and siblings is the main reason they enjoy going out to eat.
Today eating out is fast becoming an important part of the family experience, even more so for households headed by the single parent. And it isn’t just about eating out either. A lot of kids say that being with their family is their favorite part about going out to eat. In fact, there are many children who count on it, as it offers their single parent the opportunity to give the child some undivided attention.
Because it is more likely that the single parent will be working outside of the home, eating out also offers a convenient way for busy families to save time. Interestingly, contrary to what most people might expect, when kids are asked where they would like to eat, more than 25% choose a family-style restaurant. In one study, less than 25% of the children surveyed chose a fast-food restaurant as their first choice.
Dining out for special occasions like birthday parties and holiday meals can be a great timesaver as well. Instead of spending time planning menus, at the supermarket shopping for food, in the kitchen preparing meals, and cleaning up afterward, the single parent has more time to spend treasured moments with their children.
Although it is important for parents who have very young children to choose a family-friendly restaurant, which can accommodate the needs of little diners, no matter where a family chooses to eat, it should be a fun adventure for both younger and older children. On those evenings when parents need a break from cooking, but are too tired after a busy workday to take the kids out, ordering take-out from a favorite family restaurant is another time (and energy) saving alternative, which still allows a family to share time together.
Since families in general seem to be eating out more often, parenting experts point out that eating meals together (in or out) helps to encourage good communication. Parent and child have the chance to share the news of the day. While there seems to be little doubt that open communication leads to bonding, research shows that there are lower rates of smoking, alcohol use and drug use among pre-teens and teens who share frequent mealtimes with their families. Even going out to eat offers families the opportunity to spend quality time together.
Dining out is an easy simple way for a family to relax and be together. Without the usual at-home distractions of television, computer or telephone, family members can work on building stronger relationships. Sharing mealtime together, whether around the table at home, or dining out at a restaurant helps to draw parent and child closer together by allowing essential important one-on-one time. The single parent can utilize these valued mealtimes together to really get to know their kids, and find out what is happening in their lives.
Eating out as a family provides all kinds of other benefits as well, including reinforcing good manners, presenting important opportunities for role modeling, and refining a child’s social skills. Learning from one another, promoting improved academic performance, and nurturing feelings of belonging are other crucial advantages not to be ignored.