Family Dinners Part 1

The Most Important Thing Your Child Can Do!



Dr. Bill Doherty, Director of the Marriage and Family Therapy program, U of MN, has identified a key factor for kids’ well being:

“Research shows that the most important thing a child can do to assure long-term well being is eat meals with his or her family. The more meals together, the better!”

Based on this research, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse report makes this bold statement:

“A revival of the family dinner in America will do more to curb kids from smoking, drinking and using drugs than any law or public health campaign.”

These conclusions speak to what the forefathers of our faith already knew: It is around the table that our most important values are passed from generation to generation. The Passover feast was for centuries a seven day celebration that culminated in the Seder, or grand remembrance of the Passover. Then, during the last week of his life, Jesus established the Passover meal as the time and place he would be remembered. During this famous “Last Supper” he said, “Do this often, in remembrance of me!”

So how, in today’s age of numerous activities and busy lifestyles that we want to maintain, can we honor this age-old principle for passing faith and values over a meal? How can we “do this often?”

Here is one family’s answer:

Jan and Dean are a fairly typical suburban family. Passing their faith and values to their kids is important to them, but they lead very busy lives. Jan and Dean both are self-employed, and their three kids, ages 8 to 12, are all involved in various extra-curricular activities. Just coordinating pick-ups, drop-offs, carpools, and some fashion of nutrition requires Herculean traffic control skills. Until recently, meals were often eaten in the car or in drive-by fashion at the kitchen counter during transitions.

Feeling committed to both the extra-curricular activities and the sharing of meals together, the family made a plan. Jan prepared fairly filling after school snacks, which eliminated the need for dinner at the standard time. The new plan is that when the kids wrap up their days at 7:30 or 8:00, the family gathers and shares a light supper together, catching up on the highlights of the day and taking time to discuss important life lessons.

During a recent 8:00 family supper while the family shared fun conversation, the question was posed, “What was your favorite time of the day?” One child was quick to answer, “My favorite time is right now!” The other kids chimed in their agreement.

Mission accomplished! The kids enjoy the time together and are embracing their parents’ values.

The point here isn’t that you should use the same schedule as Jan and Dean, but that you can find a way to have meals together if it’s important enough. And based on the research Dr. Doherty references, it’s VERY important.

So make a commitment. Share more meals!

Read Family Meals Part Two >>

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4 thoughts on “Family Dinners Part 1

  1. Thank you for this. The Search Institute research supports Dr. Dougherty’s research conclusion. Families eating together, family-style (i.e., passing dishes of mashed potatoes, vegetables, saladss, pasta, meat, etc rather than eating in silos sitting next to one another) is a proven winner for family bonding. Children learn from adults who set the pattern by our behavior and mentoring. We learn to share, to respect others, and we feel respected by the others at the table.

    The Search Institute also names such simple matters as tucking a child in at night, spending five minutes at bedtime listening to the child talk, getting close to his/her concerns, hopes, aspirations, failures and successes. A simple act of prayer and a kiss good-night. All make a HUGE difference to how a child feels about his or herself.

    • Gordon – Good stuff. We love the Search Institute research and worked with the Asset framework for years in our work with high risk teens. 

      Thanks for your affirmation!

  2. There was a time when my husband was working 2nd shift and our kids were little that we couldn’t have “dinner” together most days. So breakfast became our family meal of the day. Although he had worked late, he would get up early to be with us and have time all sitting down together. Wasn’t the easiest season in life but it was a great way to head into our days!

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