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family

When I was growing up, my little brother and I were expected to gather around the dinner table every evening.  Each member of our family had their own assigned seat, and no one ever messed with that order.   The topic of the conversation was the same every night, as we all recited what happened during the day.  But no matter what happened, this was our family time to bond, argue and talk about anything and everything..

In our house, the family dinner ritual was not optional.  Even if you weren’t hungry, you had to take your seat and eat was what put in front of you.  Hungry or not, we all ate out of respect for our mom.  After all, we were members of the “clean plate club.”  Looking back, however, I believe this played a big role in all of us getting fat.

When I got married and had children, as soon as my first daughter, Stephanie, was able to sit in her highchair, we placed it at the dinner table, thereby reserving her personal spot forever.  As our children got older and began having friends over, I remember how they proudly explained to their peers that everyone in our house had their own seat.  I also remember their friends being very impressed with that order, and eagerly taking whatever empty seat was available.

Through the years I can recall many great discussions, arguments, and even fights around our dinner table.   Although unpleasant at the time, the fights were just as important as the daily updates on our activities because we all learned something meaningful about one another through every argument or fight.   And no matter what happened in our busy lives, we all knew that once a day we would together as a family, even if only for a short while.  

Family Dinners Produce Well-Adjusted Kids

Why am I writing about this topic?    

Because researchers have learned that children who have a regular family dinnertime are less likely to smoke, drink and use drugs.  These children are also more likely to be emotionally content and have positive peer relationships.  Furthermore, a regular family mealtime is the single strongest predictor of academic achievement—regardless of the parents’ age, income or family size.  

Most of us lead very busy, over-scheduled lives.   However, these findings provide more than enough good reason to go out of our way to make family dinners a daily ritual.

At our house, dinners come with chores as well.  If I cook, then the kids clean up.  One child has kitchen duty every day, another sets the table, and a third helps out with preparation.  Until the day our oldest daughter went to college, dinner was mandatory for everyone in our family, and every child had to help in some way.

When Steph moved out, it took us a while to get used to her absence.  Our house became so quiet you would have thought she was the only one making all the noise.  It also became harder to schedule family dinners on a daily basis.  My husband began to travel on business quite frequently, and the remaining kids acquired jobs that ran late into the evening.  Many days we skipped dinner altogether.

In order to make up for lost time, we began to spend more quality time one-on-one.  We also tried to have dinner with the kids and their friends when everyone was available, which led to a new and interesting problem.  As we began having our kids’ friends over more often, we sometimes ran out of food because as many as ten would show up unannounced during dinner.   So we made a new rule—dinner is at 7:00 p.m., and if you are coming you must call ahead of time.  This new rule seems to be working out well.  We rarely run out of food anymore, and more important, we still get quality time with our children.

Although not as regular as it used to be, dinnertime is still is a very precious time for my husband and I.  Partly because we know that our children will soon be out of the house for good, and partly because we believe we are setting an example that not only makes us better parents, but will make our kids better parents when they have children of their own.

If your kids are still young, start the tradition now of having family dinners every night.  If your children are older and are beginning to embark on lives of their own, do your best to gather around the dinner table as often as you can.  

The world may change, but family values don’t.  And in my opinion, nothing is more precious than family.

All the best,

Yana



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