Cooking With Your Kids Promotes a Healthy Family Environment And May Make Them Less Likely To Abuse Drugs
From the moment you hold your child in your arms, no parent imagines their chid will grow up and abuse drugs. As parents, we try to provide a nurturing and loving environment, with boundaries and consequences. And one of the most available resources we have to promote a strong family bond is sometimes taken for granted, family mealtime.
According to a report Family Matter: Substance Abuse and the American Family from The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, parents can take some simple steps to preventing substance abuse and many revolve around family mealtime.
Mealtime can be as simple as microwaving a bowl of oatmeal to preparing an elaborate 5-course meal. In both scenarios, the environment is controlled: you, your child, conversation, quality time together, and cultivating life skills.
Does mealtime overwhelm you? If so, start small with the first meal of the day: breakfast. Children who eat breakfast are more likely to have a better memory and better test grades. Meal preparation can begin as early as 18-months. Encourage your child to gather fruit and yogurt from the refrigerator, cereal from the pantry, or a bowl from the drawer. Place a child-safe stool next to you and watch the delight in your child’s eyes as they contribute to mealtime preparation. Remember, when you make meal preparation achievable and age appropriate, you build confidence and increase your child’s self-esteem.
Have a toddler or preschooler at home? Ask him/her to help set the table, fill a water glass, prepare simple snacks like wash fruits and vegetables in a colander, spread hummus on a pita or prepare fruit kebabs. Drying dishes and sorting utensils are other fun activities for children to engage in, build their vocabulary, contribute to the home environment and help develop fundamental life skills.
Struggle with a picky eater? Encourage children to chop vegetables, peel potatoes, crack eggs and prepare age appropriate meals like homemade pizza, taco station and meatballs (yes, kids love to get their hands dirty rolling the meatballs)! More likely than not, kids will have a feeling of accomplishment when they contribute to the family and are more likely to want to participate in family meals if they help prepare the foods. For a healthier twist on meatballs, substitute lean ground chicken or lean ground turkey instead of ground beef.
Tired of making lunches? Teach your child how to prepare his/her lunch. Exposing children to healthy options in their environment will help them make healthy choices when away from home. Prepare lunch the night before (if appropriate) and avoid the morning rush! Remember, offer praises and words of affirmation on a job well done, even if there is a big mess when they finish. Be sure to hug your child when he/she contributes in a meaningful way.
A consistent mealtime preparation and ritual benefits the entire family. According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, “research consistently demonstrates that teens who eat dinner with their families frequently are at half the risk of substance abuse as teens who have family dinners infrequently.” Use this activity to spend quality time together, help build conversational and organizational skills, and promote a healthy lifestyle. Happy eating!
Niccole Maurici, University Park mom of four and former certified personal trainer, is the co-founder and creator of the StrongestMom.com website and fitness videos, which promote values important to moms: encouragement, support, positive thinking, and dedication. To learn more visit our website strongestmom.com.