What if I told you that if you did just one thing as a family it would change everything. What if I told you doing this one thing would mean less trouble with drugs and alcohol, eating healthier, showing better academic performance, and reporting being closer with their parents.
Well, tell us already! What is the one thing?
Eat dinner together.
In most industrialized countries, families don’t farm together, play musical instruments or stitch quilts on the porch. So dinner is the most reliable way for families to connect and find out what’s going on with each other. In a survey, American teens were asked when they were most likely to talk with their parents: Dinner was their top answer. Kids who eat dinner with their parents experience less stress and have a better relationship with them. This daily mealtime connection is like a seat belt for traveling the potholed road of childhood and adolescence and all its possible risky behaviors.
Of course, the real power of dinners lies in their interpersonal quality. If family members sit in stony silence, if parents yell at each other or scold their kids, family dinner won’t confer positive benefits. Sharing a roast chicken won’t magically transform parent-child relationships. But, dinner may be the one time of the day when a parent and child can share a positive experience—a well-cooked meal, a joke or a story—and these small moments can gain momentum to create stronger connections away from the table. –Washington Post.
The family dinner has been lost. This has happened for a variety of reasons, but I strongly believe in families having dinner together. I have seen it at work in my family, but the research seems to prove that it is as powerful and meaningful as I have found it to be for our family. If I could encourage parents in our church to start doing one thing it would be this. I know that there are some common questions and objections as to why this wouldn’t work so let’s take them on one at a time.
How often should we eat dinner together?
I would say at least five nights a week is optimal and three nights a week is minimal.
I don’t cook.
You don’t have to—order in or get take-out and bring it back home and eat it around the table.
What do we say? I have nothing to talk about. What are some conversation suggestions for younger children?
[Love these suggestions from http://thefamilydinnerproject.org/]
Even if they’re unable to have longer conversations, younger kids like to be included in dinnertime chit chat. Sometimes, a simple “What did you do today?” will result in fun answers about what the child saw on a walk or did during playtime. Asking kids to describe their favorite games, cartoons or toys will also spark their interest and generate engaged responses. You might ask, “What can your favorite toy or cartoon character do that you’d like to do?”
Additionally, images and photos are great conversation starters. If you have a photo that you don’t mind getting messy, try bringing it to the dinner table and asking your child to describe what he or she sees. If it’s a family photo, the child may ask who’s in the picture and what they’re doing. This could lead to a fun discussion about different family members and their lives.
Children love telling and hearing about stories of their parents, grandparents and their ancestry. You could also try kicking off a story with one of the following questions:
- “Do you know the story of how your parents met?”
- “Do you know how your name was chosen, or how your parents’ names were chosen?”
- “Do you know some of the lessons that your parents learned from good or bad experiences they had during their childhood?”
- “Do you know some of the jobs that your parents had when they were young?”
- “What is the earliest story you know about an ancestor?”
Here are some great links for resources and more stats on why family dinner is so important.
This article originally appeared here.