I grew up in a family who ate dinner together….
at the table…
with the TV turned OFF…
My Mom and Dad raised four children who were active, healthy, drug, alcohol & tobacco free, high academic achievers, student leaders with solid moral standards and a strong Christian faith. Now while I don’t think that eating dinner together regularly guarantees you parenting success, the statistics are pretty convincing that this sacred ritual is something worth making a priority in our homes.
Research by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University consistently finds the more often children eat dinner with their families:
- The less likely they are to smoke, drink or use illegal drugs (100 – 191% less likely)
- The less likely they are to have sex at young ages
- They are at lower risk for thoughts of suicide and depression
- They are more emotionally content and have fewer behavior problems
- They have healthier eating habits
- They do better in school (academic performance went up 38%)
- They are more likely to talk to their parents about a problem (40% more likely)
And yet even with all these powerfully convincing statistics – I have found that many of my friends simply can’t seem to make it happen for their families. We do live in a different world than the 60’s & 70’s when my parents were raising their family. So many things have changed and there are so many challenges as well as activities “eating up” our time.
- Many families have two working parents and are exhausted at the days end and trying to get a meal on the table and sit down together is overwhelming (I wrote a post last fall that might help this challenge – you can read it here)
- Many families are split up – putting an amazing amount of pressure on the single parent as well as often times having the children going back & forth between two households
- Many parents are working “odd” shifts” – swing shift or graveyard making it hard to share a meal together
- Many children are involved in after school activities, clubs, sports, church youth groups etc… (and parents are transporting them to these activities, coaching or chaperoning) often making it a logistical nightmare trying to get everyone together
- Even the parents have a long list of volunteer activities, book clubs, ladies & guys nights out, Bible studies and even home based businesses that take up night time hours
And yet…I believe if we really want to make it happen we can and we will!
This fall is especially challenging in the Lambdin household as we have three girls playing on soccer teams with varying practice schedules each weekday in the late afternoon/early evening, the high school girls are on the school volleyball team coached by their Daddy and that carload does not walk through the door before 6pm. The first time we are actually all in the house consistently each evening is at 8pm. Now that might work in a family without little ones….but my two year old is simply not going to wait to eat dinner that late (besides my metabolism won’t work as well eating a full meal at 8pm).
As I began to work on our fall calendar this past weekend and realized our current dilemma I began to feel a bit frustrated that our schedules at this season of life are so complicated (you mommy’s of wee ones – be thankful for the less complicated season – hard, yes – but scheduling logistics, much simpler!). I immediately began to brainstorm our options that would still give us time to sit down & take in a meal together –
- 8pm dinners – NO, for the reasons stated above
- Give it up and just settle for dinner together on the weekends – NO, I am not the “settling” type of gal
- Have a family breakfast together instead – NO, this would have to happen at 6:30am which means the high school girls & Dan would have to get up 30 minutes earlier than they already do, I would have to get up really early to prepare and mornings are not my best friend, not too mention dragging the 2 year old & 6 year olds out of bed would be a disaster
That is when I came up with this idea. I will have dinner ready & out in the kitchen for the family to grab and eat from 4:30pm – 6:30pm. Crock pot type meals that can stay warm and be ready to eat when needed. (I welcome crock pot recipees – do share!) Paper plates or bowls for easy self clean up. They can eat at the table, at the desk doing homework, in the kitchen or while watching a DVD. They can eat by themselves or with whomever is around at their personal dinner time. Then around 8pm every night we will all sit around the set table, candles lit, dinner music playing and have a light snack together with coffee or hot tea. We will alternate between fruit & nuts, cheese/dips & crackers, light appetizers and desserts. We will offer our prayers & blessing on the food, share stories of the day and enjoy sweet fellowship with the family.
We began last night as this is our first week of the craziness of our fall schedule and will continue this routine Monday through Thursdays (yay for weekend dinners together at 6pm!) until mid November when soccer and volleyball come to an end. It was a perfect solution and everyone loved it!
Let me encourage you to make taking in a family meal together a real priority! (at the table, with the TV off –> nice dishes, candles & music are a bonus!) If it helps even a little to keep your kids healthy, off drugs, not depressed, academic achievers with fewer behavior problems as well as more likely to talk to you – it is worth the effort…don’t you think? Besides it is so enjoyable to spend time with those you love and the memories are priceless!
Yes….where there is a will…there is a way!