Dinnertime is often the only time during the day for uninterrupted communication. And communication is the lifeblood of relationships for strong families. Serious parents take eating together with their children seriously.
The typical family dinner today has changed drastically from the iconic image of a picturesque family including a mother, father, two-point-five kids, and a golden retriever sitting down for a home-cooked meal together. However, in the sea of Domino’s Pizza boxes, soccer practice, dance team, and work obligations that image has been discarded by most modern families as an intangible ideal. While many families will never find themselves in a position to have that picture-perfect moment, scheduling time out of everyone’s day to sit down and have dinner is valuable part of a child’s development and the overall health of a family.
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University reports ten benefits of frequent family dinners to children: 70% lower risk for substance abuse, half as likely to try cigarettes, half as likely to be a daily cigarette smoker, half as likely to try marijuana, one third less likely to try alcohol, half as likely to get drunk monthly, likelier to get better grades in school, less likely to have friends who drink alcohol and use marijuana, likelier to have parents who take responsibility for teen drug use, and 40% likelier to say future drug use will never happen.
In other words, there’s more happening at the dinner table than just catching a good meal. “If it were just about food, we would squirt it into their mouths with a tube,” says anthropologist Robin Fox for TIME magazine, he agrees about the mysterious way that family dinner plays an important role in people’s lives. “A meal is about civilizing children. It’s about teaching them to be a member of their culture.”
The key here is that dinner is about communication. A “Family Dinner Experiment” conducted by Oprah Winfrey in 1993 challenged five families to eat dinner together every night for a month for at least a half an hour. At first the families found it difficult but by the end of the study they wanted to continue eating dinner together. The biggest surprise for the parents was “how much their children treasured the dependable time with their parents at the table.”
Some tips for getting the most out of dinnertime with your family include: picking a day and sticking to it, getting your children involved in the menu selection and preparation (there are numerous websites with recipe ideas), turn off the TV, and try to keep the conversation positive. Remember, this is your chance once a day to have 30-40 minutes of uninterrupted time with your kids! Work to avoid distractions and let them really connect with you.
Jeffrey Feulner and the Men’s Divorce Law Firm hope to see families engaging in activities which bring them closer together. It is our belief that sitting down and participating in open communication fosters positive relationships and we work to offer our clients the same treatment when they come to us seeking legal counsel. Whether you are a single parent or are fortunate to have another positive influence in your child’s life, make an effort to have this uninterrupted time with your children as often as possible.