Studies have shown that family dinner reaps mounds of positive benefits for our children. Children and Teens who share family dinners three or more times a week are less likely to be overweight and more likely to eat healthy foods. They perform better academically and are less likely to engage in risky behaviors like drugs, alcohol and sex. They are all around better communicators and have better relationships with their parents. Does that sound like the family you desire?
Additionally, adults who participate in family dinner have a greater overall satisfaction with life. They feel a deeper sense of community and are more positive about their marriages. As humans we desire social contact and the dinner table can meet that need better than social media. It’s this kind of face-to-face contact with people we love and care about that nurtures the spirit. If most adults and parents agree that family meal time is important and they desire to make that happen more often, why isn’t it happening?
Sixty years ago the average family dinner was ninety minutes long, today it is less than twelve. What used to be a normal and necessary part of family life is now seen as a luxury. In an effort not to fall behind in our culture, we program ourselves and our families nearly 24/7. We barely have enough time to sleep, or so we think. We have just enough energy to get through this day, this week, this season and before we know it the years begin to slip away.
We need to develop big-picture thinking in our family life. We need to make decisions based on our long-term goals for our children. What most of us really want is to raise children with good moral character, high integrity and compassion. We want good leaders both in society and families. We want them to know their worth, to learn contentment and what it really means to be happy.
So how do we do that in this get-ahead, rat-race world? It may seem like a simple answer but defending your family dinner just might be it. However, choices will have to be made, hard choices. I am certain that the characteristics listed above will not be fostered through non-stop activities, even positive ones. They are built through time together in an environment of trust and respect. Where good communication is fostered and laughter abounds. We have to choose to build margin in the lives our families so that we have time for what is truly important.
I know firsthand how hard that can be. I am raising five children and while they are starting to leave the home, I remember carting kids to practices, homework struggles, theater seasons, high school athletics and youth group activities. I have wrestled through endless mounds of laundry, hauled musical instruments all over the state, lost my dining room table under the fray for weeks at a time and baked more cookies and cupcakes than I want to count. I have worked off and on during these years and have had to learn the hard way how to manage a very busy family life while maintaining family time goals. I am here to tell you it can be done and that it is worth it. My reward for these efforts is my children’s high regard for family dinner. They have great memories around our table and they tell me it is what they miss the most when they leave our home. They continue to make it a priority to come home for family dinners and I don’t think it is just for the food. So what’s your choice?
I hope to encourage you. In posts to come I will share my lessons, recipes and kitchen hacks to help you make this a reality. So stay tuned……