A few weeks ago, I wrote about how having kids grow up and move out has sort of changed things in our household. One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is our family meals together.
We still have two little ones at home, and we love continuing the tradition of having dinner together to talk over the day, or any other topics on hand.
So What’s For Dinner?
Family dinners have been such a huge part of our life for so long that I’m not sure exactly when we started it. And for the record, our meals aren’t over the top; my goal is to always have one meat, one starch, and one vegetable or one meat and two vegetables. If I do more than that, hip hip hooray! If I do the bare minimum, I consider that good too.
While I love cooking and feeding my family, the meal itself is never the important thing to me. It’s the conversation, the excitement of the kids telling us about an achievement or even the hesitation to reveal some not-so-good news.
Whatever the case may be, I always feel as if anything — and everything — can be solved regarding our family over mealtime. There’s no rush — usually — and no cell phone interruptions to hasten the time. One time was all it took for one of the kids to wear earbuds to the table for the earbuds to be banned forever.
And the Survey Says
I know I support families having consistent mealtimes together but there are also studies and reports that back up what I know from experience. A 2012 study conducted for the National Institutes of Health indicated that children eating more meals together with their families fared better on measures of psychological adjustment and engaged in fewer risk behaviors.
And anyone who knows me also knows I have a love affair with reading, but the Family Dinner Project has reported that dinner conversation is a more potent vocabulary-booster than reading. And the stories told at the table help children build resilience.
Unfortunately, according to the American College of Pediatricians, family time at the dinner table has declined by more than 30 percent. But all is not lost.
Never Too Late To Start
You can start having consistent family meals together by simply taking it one day at a time. Whoever is responsible for the cooking that day sets the time and when dinner is ready, that person calls every family member to the table. Allow different family members to have ownership by giving them responsibilities. One could prepare the drinks or at least get the glasses/cups. One could gather the utensils for everyone. And another can be the runner — taking the plates and/or condiments from the kitchen to the table.
PennState has some great tips on what to do when you actually sit down for dinner:
- Discuss the child’s day. Express interest in your child’s life.
- Discuss current events. Bring up news appropriate to the age of your child.
- Let all family members talk. Be an active listener and be sure your child learns to listen as well.
- Encourage your child to participate. Do not underestimate your child’s ability to hold a conversation.
Raindrops Won’t All Be Lemondrops and Gumdrops
One of the most important things I must mention is that all dinnertime conversations will not be happy and joyful. Allow your children to express their real emotions and you do the same. Just be sure to underscore the unwritten rule that your love will still be there regardless of where the conversation takes you.