I picked up a cookbook (of sorts) at the library last week, The Family Dinner by Laurie David, and it’s stirring something inside of me. It’s not the recipes that are blowing me away (although I’m excited to try a few), but the whole philosophy on which the book was built. The importance of the family dinner. How simply sitting down and enjoying a real food meal together on a regular basis can have such a positive impact on a family.
The first chapter is entitled “Why Family Dinners Matter” and discusses how Americans have lost touch with the concept of dining together and misplaced their priorities insomuch that the family dinner is a trite afterthought that happens only on occasion rather than every day. Busy schedules and a plugged-in world have taken over the dinner table and what was once a place for families to converge and connect has become more of a place to eat take-out in between sports practices and meetings.
There is just no time for dinner anymore.
“People say they don’t have time to cook, yet in the last few years we have found an extra two hours a day for the Internet.” -Michael Pollen, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma
David talks about all the great benefits that come from an established family dinner. Kids who eat meals with their family regularly are more likely to be healthy eaters, have better manners, and feel more secure than their peers who do not. A home that has a family dinner every night is a home where kids will want to be. Solid memories are formed around a dinner table where food is celebrated and enjoyed.
While this trend away from eating meals together as a family may be new, it isn’t new to me. With parents who were restaurant owners, I didn’t grow up with a traditional family dinner every night. Working well past dinner time most nights, the kids’ dinners involved either take out (from our restaurant) or something frozen or from a box or can that my brothers or I could prepare.
Sundays, however, were different. Sundays were our family dinner day, and you dare not miss it. I have great memories of Sunday dinners and the meals my parents took the time (sometimes all day!) to prepare. It was on those priceless Sundays that I snuck my nose in the kitchen to see what my dad was cooking and learned little culinary tidbits. It was on those priceless Sundays that my mom and I would set the dining room table together: talking, laughing, connecting.
I longed to have Sundays dinners every night, which may be partly why establishing a nightly dinner time with my family is so important to me. Children yearn to have a solid family life, and family dinners can play a significant role in creating that stable feeling. According to the author, 67% of teens in America want to have more time with their parents. How about 45 minutes a night at the dinner table?
Right now, having a family dinner is easy for me. My daughter is two with no place else to be. But you can be sure that as she grows older the pattern we are establishing now is going to stick. Meals will be a time to celebrate and appreciate the food we are blessed with, connect as a family, and take a time-out from our over-scheduled, hectic lives.
What about you? What does your family dinner look like? Did you have a family dinner growing up? Is it important to you?
We do family dinners every night. We also start with a prayer, though I love the idea of a moment of silence; we will try that tonight!
My kids are 5, 5 and 2, so not really in activities yet, which makes it easier.
It is a nice time for us to chat as a family. Sometimes I do think how relaxing it would be if just the hubs and I ate together, but it is a great time to practice manners and social skills with the kids. Can’t imagine not having family dinner as part of our routine.
Yes, family dinner definitely isn’t relaxing, especially when the kids are as young as ours are, but I think it’s totally worth it. That’s what date night dinners are for, right? 😉 Thanks for the comment!
I try to do a family dinner every night too. My kids and i are grieving the loss of my husband and there father right now, they are 6,3, and 2. They don’t eat much so some nights it almost seems pointless in preparing anything. Any suggestions of what we can do on a limited budget that is healthy. I have changed our diets since our loss to all organic and raw foods as best I could with 3 little ones. They do still get there occasional unhealthy treat.
I am so sorry for your loss. What a terrible thing to have to endure. I commend you for keeping healthy eating on your mind when I’m sure just getting dinner on the table is a struggle. The price of healthy eating can definitely be pricey. I’ve found that the best ways to cut costs tend to be the most time-consuming. If you have time, however, things like cooking your own beans, making your own bread, etc. can really save you money. Please feel free to ask any more specific questions you might have and I’ll try my best to help.
Rubin Trifone says
Very nice article, totally what I needed.
I love this post too! I grew up in a home that always had family dinner together, with rare exceptions– even when we were older. I have so many great memories of sitting down and visiting with my family. We talked about politics, literature, current events, our lives, and just had fun laughing and making jokes. I think it really helped me feel like my feelings and ideas had value, and taught me that others feelings and ideas were important too.
I also make it a huge priority to have dinner together as a family. Sometimes it seems like a pain, with two young boys who are always getting down and running around, but I know just making it a priority will be so worth it. A few things that I have done to try and include them more are having a conversation jar (I got most of my questions from here:
We also start each meal with a prayer, then a moment of silence (for about 30 seconds), and then when we are eating we each get to go around the table and tell each other what our favorite thing from the day was I got that idea from the book Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne (an awesome book if you haven’t already read it). And I love to eat by candlelight every once in a while or for special occasions. It really seems to make it seem more special.
Anyway, this was a great post and great reminder how important it is for our children to have a place to come every day to associate good feelings with good food. 🙂
Love your blog, and p.s. your rice crispy treats look awesome! I’ll have to try them.
I love the conversation jar idea and the sharing your favorite thing about your day! We also start with a prayer, but not a moment of silence. I love that idea, too. Thanks, Jane.
Another great post, Maryea! Growing up we always had family dinners–even during our busy high school years of sports, jobs, etc., somehow my parents always made it work (even though I didn’t realize it’s importance at the time!). This tradition continues with my own family today. Sometimes it is the only time during the whole day we all get to sit together and connect. I already work around swimming lessons, cub scouts, puppy class, etc., but it is a priorty for us, so we find a way. I only wish they would last longer!
Thanks, Candy. I know it is going to get harder as our family grows and schedules get busier, but I know it can be done! 🙂
Our family dinner is my favorite time of the day! Even little AJ now sits in his high chair at the table with us. It is very special to all of us. While I was growing up my family did have dinner together most nights and I remember that I truly liked spending the time together as a family.
Dinners at your house were always fun. 🙂 How cute that AJ is in the high chair already!! I feel like he is still a newborn!
For our family it is definitely a priority! I protect that hour for all of us to come together and find out about each other’s day. Family dinner was a part of my childhood and was always protected by my mom and dad and I want it to be that way for my boys, too. I don’t let either one of them participate in anything that will interrupt the dinner hour….usually 5:30-6:30. Although, my oldest now has Cub Scouts on tuesday evenings at 6:00 PM, but, we just eat early on those nights. And, we always, always eat at the table all together. I hate it when I’ve seen at friend’s houses where Dad is at the computer, Mom is texting, kids are eating in the living room. Ugh! That seems so disconnected to me. We even do fun little games at the table—ask questions and everyone around the table has to answer the question. My boys are 9 and 5 and I want them to look back on this time our family spent together fondly. I hope they do!
I’m sure they will, Lisa!