The Importance of Family Dinners

Lately, I am remembering the Sunday family meal, making it a bit more special than other nights.

The art image at the top of this post I purchased as a poster when I was away at college. I must have missed home and the family dinners we had every night as this was clearly a reminder of it to me. I imagined myself the older sister with the long dark braid and the young girl with lighter hair was clearly my little sister helping me set the table. Our childhood dining room was that color of blue, too. We ate in there more often than not. My mother always made/makes the ordinary special and we were her accomplices.

Here and now, my daughter is my accomplice but I am not the tireless woman my mother is and we are not as regularly "fancy." But, hold fast I do to the importance of family meals. I believe those times define us and strengthen our family identity. We don't eat as often in the dining room, ours is our schoolroom. While I have accommodations to make it look more like a dining room on special occasions, ( pictures of that transformation ) our meals are most often in the kitchen, pictured here.

Rarely do we use the fine china or crystal, but I like linens and placemats during the week and tablecloths for a weekend meal...I like that very much. Somehow it actually feels like time slows down and the weekend seems more relaxing when we are home...all together and I have the leisure to cook and set the table.

I feel a bit protective of our family dinners as the statistics on its benefits are so well documented.

Benefits of Family Dinners and Why Mealtimes Matter
  • 19% of teens who have fewer than three family dinners per week report that there is a great deal of tension or stress between family members, compared to 7% of teens who have at least five family dinners per week.
  • More mealtime at home was the single strongest factor in better achievement scores and fewer behavioral problems in children all ages. More meals at home also resulted in less obesity.
  • Because feeding is the most basic animal form of caring, sharing meals is one of the most central family bonds.
  • Through the mini lessons of table manners, children learn to share and think of others. By saying “please” and “thank you,” we recognize the humanity of our tablemate, acknowledging the fact that we both deserve respect.
  • More than a decade of research by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University has found that the more often kids eat dinner with their families, the less like they are to smoke, drink or use drugs.
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University researched the benefits of family dinners and found clear results. Specifically, researchers compared the responses of children who reported having family dinners fewer than three times a week with those who have family dinners five times or more per week. The study concluded that children who enjoy frequent dinners with their family are far less likely to develop substance abuse problems. If a child has family dinner time on a regular basis, he or she is:
  • Half as likely to try cigarettes or marijuana
  • One-third less likely to try alcohol
  • Less likely to have friends who drink alcohol or use marijuana
  • More likely to say they won't ever try drugs
In addition to avoiding substance abuse issues, children who have regular family dinners earn better grades [source: CASA]. They're also more likely to claim that their parents are proud of them and less likely to report tension among family members. Furthermore, when asked which adult they would confide in over a serious problem, children who have frequent family dinners typically say they'd go to a parent [source: CASA]. Researchers for the University of Minnesota School of Public Health found that adolescent girls who have frequent family dinners are less likely to use diet pills or develop eating disorders, such as binge eating or self-induced vomiting [source: Neumark-Sztainer].

As we enter into a time of increased baseball and ice hockey practice/game schedules I bristle at how it might effect these cherished times.

Lord Jesus, come and be our guest,
And take your place at this table.

...keep our family connected and protected from anything that would rob us of our peace, our faith and our unity.



Jen @ Forever, For Always... said...

This is great information! I am thankful that both my dh and myself grew up in families where the family meal was the norm. It's made it that much easier to continue the tradition in our own family.

We switched pizza night from Fri to Sun and we still break out the table clothes (we do most nights), napkins and china!

Jenny said...

Hi Allison, you table looks beautiful. We try to have a special Sunday dinner with candles and real plates and {plastic} wine glasses for all.

Kathleen's Catholic said...

I love this post, Allison. Thanks so much for all this information that defends the family dinner.

Isn't it amazing, though, that our natural inclinations to join one another to break bread is just what we need to develop wholly and spiritually as a family? Once again, scientists prove what it is that we already understand deep inside as mothers!

I'm linking! Have a blessed Lenten Friday!

scmom (Barbara) said...

We, too, cherish dinner hour, Allison. I can't imagine it any other way.

Sue said...

Oh, I agree! I love the hub-bub of our daily family meal. As the older kids grow and they work and sometimes are not able to dine with the rest of us, it makes it extra special when we are all home together (more often than not, thankfully). And Sunday... always very special - just like when I was a little girl!

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