Family Dinner

Family Dinner was always a priority for us.  Our kids knew they had to be there if at all possible.  If they wanted to visit friends it had to be scheduled around mealtime.

Often I told them we are trying to keep Family Dinner from going extinct, because our culture seems determined to let this important time of the day to go by the wayside.  There are a few reasons I hope to convince you to fight hard for this.  And even if it can’t happen every day because of work schedules, try to have as many meals together in any given week that you can.

There was a study done that showed that children who eat family dinner together regularly, consume more fruits, vegetables, vitamins, and micro-nutrients as well as fewer fried foods and soft drinks.  Home made meals also lead to better portion control, which helps prevent obesity. As a personal aside about food issues, we never tried to make food an issue at our dinner table. 

One thing I believe strongly too is because of child hood obesity, eating disorders, etc., I am not an advocate of making children clean their plates.  Somebody may debate me on this but that wasn’t something I wanted to make an issue.  We offered our children good healthy foods, and that was their choice for that day. We didn’t make 4 different meals to accommodate everyone,  I allowed each child to have one or 2 foods they did not like and I’d give them grace in that.  But pretty much every meal we served salad and vegetables, along with a casserole.  I would give them a small portion depending on their ages, and they would have to eat that amount, if they didn’t eat their dinner, they wouldn’t get dessert.  Honestly, we didn’t have issues because that policy was in place, everyone followed it and no big deal. Plus with a big group there was built in crowd pressure. When they saw their siblings eating dessert, they’d finish up their plates in a quick minute so they didn’t miss out!

A study by Columbia University also showed that children who ate family dinners together were less likely to have problems with drugs and alcohol. They also found that they got better grades,  Researchers discovered that children who ate between 5-7 family dinners per week were twice as likely to receive A’s and B’s in school compared to children who ate fewer than 3 family dinners together per week.

**Perhaps one of the biggest bonuses to family dinners is that it promotes better family relationships among the family members. Anything that helps bond your family together is a win!  In the study done by Columbia University,

71% of teenagers said they consider talking, catching up, and spending time with family members as the best part of family dinners.

Family meal together is a good way to decompress at the end of a long day.  Parents and children alike all live busy lives filled with school work, tests, jobs, bosses, and stressful co-workers. We found that sharing a meal together, catching up on everyone’s day, was a relaxing time for us. 

When our girls were in high school, and those of you with daughters, know that high school can be brutal for girls. I’d invite one of my daughters to help make a salad with me, or set the table together. I found that during those times they would begin to relax and often would get chatty, Doing a pleasant task together, gave them a chance to relax and in a non-threatening atmosphere. I savor precious moments like this!

Family dinner helps us connect together after a long day. We discuss events of the day at school, work, local news, and around the world.  I believe this time has helped our children be very aware of the world around them.  Having stimulating conversations around the table also helps children’s vocabulary. It opens their eyes to issues and the world around them. By the way, I must say that in Mr. Fisher’s current events class, the Jaussen kids were picked first to be on the team because they always seemed knowledgeable about current events, #dadloveshistory!! 

Another key reason why family dinner is very important is because that is a time when we as parents can convey values to our children.  In a relaxed atmosphere, we can teach them about what is important in life.  Conversations about working hard, and managing money, choosing a spouse, respecting others, being compassionate to the needy,  all of these are some things we’ve been able to have conversations about.  When you sit in front of TV and eat dinner, you are allowing the culture to be your child’s teacher.  And lest you think the culture isn’t trying to indoctrinate your child, you are mistaken.  Who’s values do you want your child to embrace?  Think about these things. 

For us, after family dinner, we would read a portion from the Bible.  Family devotions was a time we could help teach our children the importance of faith and many times spiritual questions would lead to wonderful conversations about the Lord,  God has blessed this simple habit in amazing ways in the lives of our kids. You don’t need to be a theologian to have family devotions.  Simply reading and let the bible speak for itself is not difficult.  Please refer to my post on Family Devotions for more ideas.

We, as much as possible, try to make the family dinner table, screen free.  Everyone knows that having a meal together is the priority. its not a long time, only 30-45 minutes, but often we linger and talk longer if we get on an interesting topic.  We are not legalistic, but the over arching principle is no screens during dinner. I also encourage you to make it a strife free zone. Don’t bring up criticisms and harsh comments at the dinner table if possible.  These can be discussed after dinner in private. Getting down on each other has no place at family dinner.

So, to sum up, I would like to encourage you to fight for family meal times as much as possible.  Tell your kids you want to reinstate them, and tell them why.  Kids love when parents make them a priority, it makes them feel special!  It doesn’t mean it has to be a gourmet meal either. It can be peanut butter and honey sandwiches with carrot and celery sticks. As long as there is love it’s a feast!!

The Bible says “Better is a dry crust with peace, then a house full of feasting with strife. Proverbs 17:1

I hope this has encouraged you on your parenting journey, to consider family dinner as an important time to connect as a family. Please leave comments below as to how you’ve worked to keep family mealtime a priority. Or if you reinstate it in your family, do let me know how it’s going.