Celebrating Family Dinners

Sep 07, 2023

In today's fast-paced world, where technology often seems to take precedence over human connections, the simple act of sitting down for a meal with family can be a profound, even life-changing, experience, for our children. Over the dinner table, families build bonds. The age-old ritual of breaking bread together encourages a sense of belonging that transforms the child’s very sense of self-worth.

Certainly, we should all be spending quality time with those we care about. It’s about getting off the treadmill and giving ourselves permission to care and feed ourselves, to care and feed those we love, and to learn about their day. This time at the dinner table is a time to forge ties, share burdens, and laugh. Certainly, if you are a parent, you should be sitting down to meals with your children. It really doesn’t matter which meal. It could be breakfast, the odd lunch, or the occasional dinner. Not everyday necessarily, but there should be regular get togethers . . . two or three times a week. There are so, so many benefits.

Quality Time Together: As I suggested above, family dinners provide an opportunity to slow down, connect, and share experiences. The act of coming together at the dinner table creates a space where everyone can engage in meaningful conversations and enjoy each other's company, reminding each other that you are connected, that you belong to one another.

Healthy Eating Habits: This is SOOOO important. Family dinners often involve homemade meals prepared with love and care. This means that families have more control over ingredients and portion sizes and can use their together-time to build healthier eating habits. And, these will last a lifetime. We parents should never forget that we are role-models. What we do is what our children assume adults should do . . . and shouldn’t that include eating vegetables?

Communication Skills: Engaging in conversation during dinner is a great way to improve communication skills within the family. Children can learn to articulate their thoughts, express themselves, and listen actively to others. Indeed, one of the fastest ways to improve your little ones vocabulary is simply to eat dinner with them. This is an investment that will pay off richly when they start school.

Conflict Resolution: Family dinners provide an opportunity for conflict resolution. They offer a safe space for family members to address issues and concerns, fostering open and honest communication. It's a chance to resolve conflicts constructively and to illustrate to children how to positively nurture and maintain healthy relationships.

Academic and Emotional Benefits for Children: Numerous studies have shown that children who regularly have family dinners tend to perform better in school and exhibit lower rates of risky behavior. (By that we mean, they’re less likely to vape, smoke, drink, have sex, and otherwise do things that will upset us.) These kids also seem to have a stronger sense of self and a more positive outlook on life. Rates of depression definitely are much lower in children who have regular family dinners.

Cultural and Family Traditions: Family dinners provide a platform to celebrate cultural and family traditions. Sharing stories, recipes, and rituals passed down through generations can create a sense of belonging and continuity. It's an opportunity to honor and preserve your family's unique heritage.

Strengthened Relationships: Consistent family dinners build stronger family bonds. By sharing their daily experiences, challenges, and achievements, family members develop empathy and a deeper understanding of one another. These times together truly can bring meaning to the family relationships.

But let's go back to the healthy eating habits bit for a minute. New research suggests that our investment in family meals has a profound impact not only on our kids' health today but also on our kids' FUTURE eating habits. That is, kids who eat dinner regularly with their families when they are young tend to choose healthier foods for themselves as teenagers and young adults. Clearly, by investing in family dinners, you not only help improve their social skills and school performance, you're creating the foundation for lifelong wellbeing. That’s a pretty big deal.

Wouldn’t it be glorious if all of us could make an effort to prioritize family dinners? Let's hope for our kids sake that we can.