What if I told you there was one simple practice you could incorporate into your family’s day that has been statistically shown to lead to 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, and lower rates of obesity? I bet you’d be interested, right? That one simple act is regularly eating together as a family, and it is something that I believe is essential to forming strong family bonds.
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I was very fortunate to grow up in a family that ate supper together most nights of the week. My mom grew up eating family dinners, and it was important to her to carry on the practice as a parent.
My dad, on the other hand, barely remembers a time they ate together at the table, so it took some convincing to change his ways. As the years went on, however, he began to see the importance of family dinners, and he was grateful that my mom had been so insistent on them.
It became a staple family activity for us, and looking back through my childhood, I see the enormous impact it made on the woman I became.
I have deemed this month “the month of family,” dedicated to establishing habits and practices that will forge strong family bonds. I can’t think of very many activities that will do this more effectively than eating together at the table.
Though I call them family “dinners,” they don’t have to be the evening meal – Crystal Paine of moneysavingmom.com has this interesting post about why they chose breakfast as their family’s shared meal.
They also don’t have to be fancy (though I do think they should be healthy, and ideally as homemade as possible – see this post for ideas on how to do this when you’re short on time!). The most important thing is that you regularly set aside time together to commune and focus on each other … and what better way to do that than over food?
If family dinners are a foreign concept for you, or if you would simply like to learn more about why they’re important and what they can do for your family, this is the post for you!
Benefits of Family Dinners
- 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
What Can You Gain From Family Dinners?
It prioritizes spending time together.
You can’t grow closer as a family unless you spend time together, and with the crazy busy schedules that everyone has nowadays, spending time together takes a lot of intention and planning.
It provides opportunities to talk and share.
Family dinners are a wonderful opportunity for everyone to share their hearts, connect on a deeper level, learn from each other, and support each other. It is time to reflect on the day, answer questions, share in struggles, and celebrate successes together.
You can use it to model manners.
Eating together as a family is a perfect time to model manners to your kids. As they say, “more is caught than taught.”
It encourages healthy eating habits.
Family dinners offer a prime opportunity for introducing new foods to your kids as they see you try and enjoy them. Studies have also shown that kids who eat weekly family dinners tend to eat more fruits and veggies and less pop and unhealthy foods. I think it all comes back to modeling and setting a healthy example for your kids.
You can model appropriate interpersonal communication.
I know as a child at our family dinners, I had to do a LOT of listening to my parents’ conversations. I paid attention to how they talked about their days and their lives, and I noticed how they talked to each other. I believe these family dinners played a big part in forming my future relationships and communication skills.
It offers prime opportunities to discuss serious issues.
Have you ever noticed how much less intimidating it is to talk about serious issues when you have something else to do while you talk? I find it easier to talk about tough topics while performing other tasks such as eating, driving, or working on a project. I believe this is true of most kids (especially teenagers), so family dinners can become an important opportunity to discuss serious issues in your kids’ lives and the world around them.
It’s cheaper! (And healthier!)
Last but not least, eating at home is much cheaper and healthier than eating out. So if you need to trim your budget (or your waistline), family dinners are a great place to start!
Need help making family dinners a reality?
Check out my book The Every Mom’s Meal Solution Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide to Feeding Your Family Well in Any Season, Budget, or Lifestyle! It’s full of tips, tricks, and strategies for feeding your family healthy meals in less time for less money with less stress!
How to Use it to Its Full Potential
Start with a prayer
Model gratitude and faith to your children by starting every family dinner by thanking God for His provision and love.
Use manners (I am working on this)
You definitely don’t want to ruin the atmosphere by harping on your kids through the entire meal, but you do want to take the opportunity to teach and reinforce good manners. (I am working on this in my own family dinners. And it definitely helps to get cooperation from your spouse.)
This is a big deal for me. Your kids are not going to open up and share if your eyes or ears are glued to your phone or television screenyour eyes or ears are glued to your phone or television screen. I see little point to having a sit-down family dinner if everyone’s attention is directed towards a screen rather than on each other. Of course, every once in a while it’s fun to have dinner while watching a movie together, but by and large, I have a pretty strict no electronics policy during our dinners.
Set an example of how God works in our everyday lives by bringing God into your conversations during family dinners. You may even want to consider doing a family devotion during this time.
If forging close family bonds is important to you, I can think of few practices that will go further towards that goal than regularly eating together as a family at home. Family dinners are not always easy to make a reality, but their payoffs are enormous. I know how they shaped the person I became as I was growing up, and I’m excited to see how they impact my family as my kids grow up.
Again, if you need help getting dinner on the table in the midst of everyday life, be sure to check out The Every Mom’s Meal Solution Handbook.
Click here to learn more about the book (and download a FREE sample chapter!)
You Might Also Enjoy:
- 9 Secrets to Feeding Your Family Well (When You Don’t Have Time)
- 100 Fun Family Activities for Every Season
- How to Rock Your Next Family Vacation
- 3 Ways I Am Drawing Our Family Closer This Month