“All great change in America begins at the dinner table” – Ronald Reagan
As we start into the new school year, I begin to protect the family calendar. More importantly, I have to guard our family dinnertime with all my might. Every sport and kid activity desires to claim this precious tradition and rob my family of our time together. The every day moments that make us “The Youngs” are on the line. The opportunity to pour into my kids during this daily practice will change who they are.
When the kids were little, every meal was at the dinner table. But as they grow older, our goal is always a minimum of 5 family dinners together. This can be either sitting down in our home or out to dinner. Meaning, of course, no cell phones, iPad, TV or invited guests. Dinner together involves my family together – eating, talking, praying, laughing and loving.
Here are just a couple of benefits:
1. Your kids will eat more vegetables and new foods that you introduce. At our house, you are required to eat the vegetable on the table. Whatever it is. We started this in the beginning. They don’t have to finish the starch or the meat, but the veggies? Definitely! My kids will only eat a new food at our dinner table. At least, I can get them to try it!
2. Your kids will be more emotionally healthy. Studies show kids who eat with their families at least 5 dinners a week are less likely to get depressed, think of suicide or develop an eating disorder. 84% of teens were quoted as saying they would rather eat with their family, but “don’t tell my parents”.
3. Your kids will learn to say “no”. Kids who dine with mom and dad regularly are less likely to take a chance smoking, drinking or using drugs. Connecting with mom and dad on a regular basis gives them the parental engagement most kids are looking for.
4. Your kids will do better in school. Only 9% of kids who eat dinner with their families 5 times a week struggle in school compared to the whopping 40% of kids who don’t. Studies also suggest talking with adults helps vocabulary and manners.
5. Your kid’s heart will bond to yours. If you go the extra mile, not just eating together, but conversing and laughing together, your kids won’t want to miss dinner.
What do we do?
Our family starts dinnertime at the preparation where at least two children are involved as part of their daily chores. One child has the chore of setting the table and one child helps mom prepare. We rotate day to day. We get dinner ready and chop vegetables. Most the kids are happy when there is a new recipe to surprise everyone with or if it is a favorite family meal. When dinner is over, one child does the dishes so mom can have a break.
When we all sit down to dinner, we have a routine everyone can count on. First, we wait for everyone to get their food. Next, we pray and thank the Lord for the food and we bless it to our bodies. Thirdly, kids eat quietly while mom and dad talk for about 5 minutes. Honoring my husband this way is always appreciated. As the kids have gotten older, the rule has gotten more difficult to keep. Still, it is part of our dinnertime.
We try to make things fun! We have a box of questions to use to create fun conversation. Many of our guests request we ask these at dinner. Also we do what is called “Pits and Peaks”. Tell us one thing (or more) that went well today or where you saw God at work – PEAK. Tell us one thing that didn’t go as planned or areas God might be growing you – PIT. Drawing out my children and hearing about their day (even if I have been with them) is priceless.
So as I am filling in the calendar for the new year, I put in the soccer, tennis, ballet, AWANAs, speech & debate and youth group. Remembering when will dinner be. On some days, dinner will be at 5:30 p.m. so we can all get to church and other days it will be at 7:30 p.m. when everyone is home. Flexibility is the key! I know our pastor’s parents told us sometimes they waited until 9:00 p.m. when everyone was home. The family that eats, prays and laughs together – stays together!
Maybe Ronald Reagan is right. By keeping this practice, we may change the face of America!
How are you keeping the family dinnertime sacred?
*Statistics from health.com