One value I learned from my upbringing was the importance of family dinner. When I was a child, we ate together as a family, even if it meant we had to wait until after 7:00 for my father to get home from work. We sat at a round table and each one of us had our place. Because I grew up in a household with 2 working parents, me and my 2 older sisters had our roles in preparing dinner. As I got older, my cooking responsibilities increased until I was able to prepare the entire meal.
As I took courses in college related to family psychology and later attended work-related trainings in the social work field, I learned about the multitude of benefits of having family dinner. Some of these benefits (source: theFamilyDinnerproject.org) include the following:
- Better academic performance
- Higher self-esteem
- Greater sense of resilience
- Lower risk of substance abuse
- Lower risk of teen pregnancy
- Lower risk of depression
- Lower likelihood of developing eating disorders
- Lower rates of obesity
I knew I would keep up this tradition with my family because it would allow all of us to dedicate time to our family every day. With all of our hectic schedules, I am so happy family dinner is part of our routine. The children are old enough to help prepare our meals and they really seem to enjoy it. During the meal, we give each child a chance to “have the floor” and talk about their days.
Benefits I noticed about having family dinner include the opportunity for us parents to learn about what our children are studying in school along with assessing their safety and well-being in certain situations. These conversations allow us the opportunity to teach our children important lessons to keep them safe, happy, and successful. One day, my son was describing an incident at school when another boy was bothering him. We processed what happened during the incident and then came up with strategies for my son to follow should a similar incident happen in the future. We also use our family time together to resolve conflicts between our children. It is very important for parents to listen to everything our children have to say or else we may lose important opportunities to teach them the correct way to handle life situations.
Another benefit of having family dinner every night is the fact it trains our children how to enjoy meals in restaurants. My children can usually get through an entire dinner when we go out without having any major meltdowns. It helps when we go out to restaurants prior to 6:00 p.m. because the service is typically faster, and we get home in plenty time before bedtime. They also know they will not get dessert unless they do well during dinner.
Unless there are logistical reasons (parents working opposite shifts or children’s activities) which would be a barrier to family dinners, this is a ritual that does not cost any extra money or take extra time. With the hustle and bustle of work, school, children’s activities, housework, cooking, exercise, etc., it is very nice to know we have time built into our days to focus on each other. I hope our children will continue the family dinner tradition when they have their own families and value this ritual the same way I do.
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