“I’m just soooo busy. I don’t have time to cook…or clean…or teach my children to accomplish these household tasks themselves.” In our quest to have and do and see more we are turning up with less. Family time and quality time are becoming non-existent.
A 2004 study of 4,746 children 11 to 18 years old, published in The Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, found that frequent family meals were associated with a lower risk of smoking, drinking and using marijuana; with a lower incidence of depressive symptoms and suicidal thoughts; and with better grades.
The good news is we all need to eat. And some semblance of dinner is inevitable. So why not capitalize on this inevitability and consume a meal at the dinner table? As a nation we are both eating poorly and spending less time eating as a family. "Dinner is an important time for families to be together and talk. It's important for family bonds, having time together that's not stressful, enjoying each other's company and being around food," said Dr. Karen Weber Cullen, a behavioral nutritionist at the Children's Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. She continues, “Family meals offer a predictable routine and an opportunity for parents to monitor their children's behavior.”
In elementary school, dinner is a great time to find out what’s going on in your family’s life, go over paperwork from school and just talk. Find out their favorite color. What do they want to be when they grow up? What was their favorite part of summer? What’s their favorite subject in school? Favorite book? Food? Animal? If you don’t already know these things, you have even more reason to set aside time for family dinners.
Spend some time with kids in a school cafeteria and you’ll see a real need for the next positive aspect of dinner time as a family: table manners. Setting the table, using a napkin, elbows, scraping teeth on utensils and passing dishes of food are all reasons to eat together. Table manners teach consideration for others. Your insistence as a parent to not just teach but demonstrate table manners shows respect for them. Just like dishing up your child’s plate before your own exemplifies consideration.
So, do you dish up their plates before yours in an effort to show them both manners and consideration for others? Are you listening to their excitement when they describe their adventures on the playground or is the evening news occupying that area of your brain? Tough questions for a tough, busy and over extended world. But isn’t home and family supposed to be set apart from the chaos of work? Yes, work is tough. Home, however, can be a haven. No matter how tough your day was, home should be a happy save-haven for yourself and your kids.
And it can start at the dinner table. A book which engages parents to set proper eating examples is "French Women Don't Get Fat" by Mireille Guiliano. You can purchase it on Amazon.com.