The Most Important Thing You Can
Do With Your Kids? Eat With Them.
A little boy had been bad all day. And so at meal time, instead of sending the child upstairs with no supper, the father put a card table in the corner of the dining room (for the child to sit at apart from the rest of the family). Well, it so happens that it was the son’s turn to pray. The dad asked the boy if he wanted to and the child shook his head yes. These were the words that came out of his mouth, “Jesus, I thank thee thou hast prepared a table for me in the midst of mine enemies.”
Unfortunately, in our modern society, most families no longer do things together like: work, play, sing, etc. Instead, we are pretty well down to supper being the only time for all of the clan to connect with each other. And even here, that continues to diminish:
● 50% of adults say they now eat family meals together far less than when they were growing up as kids … ● Over the past 20 years, families eating meals together has declined by 33% … ● 60 years ago, the average family meal time was 90 minutes long. Today, it is less than 12 minutes in length … ● For the first time, families are spending more on eating out of the home (51%) than in the home (49%) ….● 97% of children’s meals eaten at restaurants do not meet the basic nutrient requirements for a healthy growing body.
Here’s why all of this is considered such a big deal:
● Brain Food – Researchers say there is often a direct correlation between the number of times families eat together and a child’s academic achievement: less times and lower grades, more times and higher grades. As well, younger children who are regularly at the family dinner table pick up an additional 1,000 rare words in their vocabulary, compared to the common 3,000 words of other children their age.
● Health Food – Children who eat regular family dinners consume far more fruits/vegetables and far less fried foods/soft drinks. And these nutritional benefits keep paying dividends, even after those kids grow up (for young adults who ate family meals together are: more likely to eat healthily, less likely to be obese and once they have children of their own, more likely to institute family meal times).
● Soul Food – A stack of studies link regular family dinners with lowering a host of high risk teenager behaviours that parents fear: smoking, drinking, drugs, violence, school problems, eating disorders and sexual activity. These kids also bounce back better from bullying and depression. And being at the table not only helps keep bad behaviour in check, it also promotes good social behaviour via family bonding.
One professional put it this way,
As a family therapist, I often have the impulse to to tell families to just go … home and start having dinners together rather than spending sessions with me (I have twenty-five years of research to back up my enthusiasm for such advice). And that nightly dinner doesn’t have to be a gourmet meal that took three hours to cook, nor does it have to be made with organic arugula and heirloom parsnips.
Of course, the real power of family dinners lie in their interpersonal quality (for if family members just sit in stony silence or shout at each other, sharing a pot roast won’t do anything at all). But a well-cooked meal, along with some shared jokes, stories, experiences; these small moments can start the momentum leading to stronger family connections, both at and away from the table. As a matter of fact, in survey after survey, when teens are asked when they’re most likely to talk with their parents, family mealtime is the top answer.
The bottom line? It looks like families fill up on a lot more than just food when they dine together.
A feast is made for laughter, and wine maketh merry…