Family dinner: Is it more like Leave It To Beaver or Grab ‘N Go? Or something in between?
Me & my house? We go through phases.
One night . . . the kids will set the table. And I’ll prepare the meal. We’ll gather ‘round and talk. Even have dessert. Just like Beaver and the Cleavers (well, not exactly.) Sometimes, two — three — nights in a row. All of us. As a family. Dinner. Sitting down. Round the table. That feels good.
Not only does it bring back visions of Leave It To Beaver, but studies show all kinds of benefits to family dinners:
- kids who eat most often with their parents are 40% more likely to get mainly A’s and B’s in school than kids who have two or fewer family dinners a week (National Center on addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University via sixsistersstuff.com);
- adolescent girls who have frequent family meals, and a positive atmosphere during those meals, are less likely to have eating disorders (University of Minnesota, 2004, via zenfamilyhabits.net);
- when families eat together frequently, children have better language skills compared to kids from families who don’t have family mealtimes often (Harvard University via zenfamilyhabits.net).
Family dinner. It sounds good. It looks good. Especially several nights in a row. Then, before I know it, I’ll flip the calendar and we grab ‘n go – to our various committed destinations . . . soccer, dance, PTA . . . for another two nights in a row . . . as I’ve thrown the food on the table and we’ve all eaten in shifts.
Like anything else, it takes a balance, doesn’t it, in this busy and demanding world of ours? How do you manage . . . structure . . . hope for . . . fulfill . . . prepare for . . . your family dinners? Does it come easy in your household or is it a constant struggle?
If you desire more consistent family meals together . . .
Consider making it a goal (a small, achieveable goal). What is realistic? Once a week? Twice a month? Monthly? Or more? Commit to it. Even put it on the calendar. Family meal. Put it in pen. Communicate it to the rest of the family, if necessary, to hold the date and priority.
Keep it simple. Don’t drive yourself crazy thinking you always have to make a fabulous meal. Keep it simple. Try sandwiches – something easy & quick . It’s being together around the table that matters.
Give yourself a break. Too busy to cook? Don’t underestimate the value of being together, whether it’s in our homes or out together at a restaurant. It’s the eating together that counts.
Allow yourself to linger. Leave the dishes for later. Don’t feel rushed to leave the table to clean up. Share some dessert and enjoy the time around the table together. Even if it’s Oreos from the box or fruit from the bowl. The time spent savoring and sharing dessert is worth it.
Have fun with some conversation starters. Keep some of these handy and share some laughs and inner thoughts.
And, lastly, savor the time. For it goes oh . . . so . . . fast.