The family meal, once a cornerstone of family life, has in recent years fallen by the wayside. This is unfortunate, as research points to family meals as a way of preventing both behavior and eating problems. But even for those who understand the benefits, scheduling a regular family meal can be most difficult. Enter the Shabbat meal.

In Judaism, the concept of Shabbat is an essential tenet. It is a time to take a break from the world around us and focus on those things which are truly important. Shabbat is not merely a day of rest, but also a time to reconnect – to G‑d, our families, and our spiritual selves.

A Shabbat meal or any family meal can be a time for reconnecting as a family. These dinners can be inspirational, a chance to see families sitting down as a unit to eat, talk, learn, and share. Every family member is involved and everyone's participation is valued. Meals may be long and relaxed. There is nowhere to rush off to and nothing more important to be done.

Turns out, this is exactly what we all need. Research has shown that children who eat meals with their parents on a regular basis are at lower risk for developing addictive behaviors such as smoking and drug and alcohol use. Children are also more likely to eat fruit and vegetables and are at lower risk for eating disorders.

In today's rushed and hectic environment, family meals are especially important as they create a time when children and parents can share quality time. Family meals present an opportunity for meaningful conversation, dealing with family issues, catching up on everyone's life, and passing down family stories and traditions. It is also a chance for parents to observe their children and track growth and development.

While it would be ideal to sit down as a family every night, the reality is that many families may not be able to do this. But even having this consistent weekly time as a family has benefits that can last far beyond childhood. The sense of stability and connectedness that shared meals create, give children an emotional advantage they will take with them into adulthood.

These are just some extra benefits to the beauty of a family Shabbat meal.