While breakfast might be the most important meal of the day nutritionally, eating dinner with the family every day is the most important meal spiritually and emotionally. The entire family sitting down to the evening meal together, without the television or the phone, is the cornerstone of every healthy family, and our society.
Dinner is an excellent way for mom and dad to get to know what’s going on at school with the kids too. Important topics like bullying, peer pressure and teen sex are some of the most important things facing kids today. Being able to interact in conversation as a family, at the table, is a productive and non-intrusive way of communicating with them. It’s a tool to use to help battle against the negatives in society that hurt our children. A good parent will learn how to listen to their children for clues in what is going on in their life.
Having dinner at the table with the family every night might seem next to impossible for some families, especially single-parent families. After school and weekend sports, scouting, and finishing projects at work before heading home are all day-to-day things that can keep a family apart. But deciding to use dinner as a tool, and a way to bring wholesomeness and closeness to your family, is a decision that will pay for itself over and over again.
There are studies that show that families that eat dinner together form closer bonds than families that don’t. Some studies report findings such as: kids who eat dinner with the family are 3.5 times less likely to try prescription drugs, 3 times less likely to use marijuana, 2.5 times less likely to have smoked cigarettes, and 1.5 times less likely to abuse alcohol. These are numbers that you as parents can have more of an impact on. Not to mention that you will be arming your kids against these harmful, sometimes irreparable enemies to society.
Occasional vacations, fishing trips, and projects are all great opportunities for parents to teach kids skills and tasks. But the daily dinner meal is where children learns who their parents are. It’s an opportunity for kids to listen to how their parents interact at work and in the community while reliving their day, and just as important, how they treat their family in conversation, with respect and dignity.
Children will spend more time with their parents, and learn that they have responsibilities to their families, by eating dinner together every day. Setting the table, getting help with homework, learning how to cook from mom or dad, and cleaning up from the meal, together, are all convenient ways of keeping a family close and bonded.
Eating dinner out on the road can be very expensive when done on a regular basis. And how do you bond with your children while your shoveling down a burger, while driving, and while your kids are in the backseat fighting over whose fries are whose? If you occasionally have to “stop off” on the road to grab a meal, pick a place with the healthiest menu. And keep it occasional. Remember when eating out was considered a treat? Keep it a treat. Something that is earned with a good report card, or a sports award.
Most agree that fried, processed and pre-fab meals aren’t healthy for anyone, but eating them every once in a while isn’t going to make your child overweight and unhealthy. Remember too, that a local restaurant is going to be healthier than a fast food restaurant, and you should get out of the car and go in to sit. Everyone will eat slower, pick healthier food with your help, and have more time and space to interact.
What other time in your day, or place in your home, is better suited for connecting with the family? Dinner is the only meal that everyone can actually sit down every day and enjoy together. Most days in our lives are hectic. Why not unwind with the people who mean the most to you? Make it a priority for your family and it will pay off for years to come.