Foundational Practice for Families: Dinner time…

A Family that Eats Together Stays Together

Many years ago, I was walking at lunch with a colleague chatting about family life. As a father of four children, he reflected that what he thought was one of the most important daily family events was dinner time. He explained that in his family the expectation was that everyone living at home would sit and eat at the dinner table. He explained that he and his wife felt that it was a critical communication time. It was a time that all the family members could debrief from the day, solve problems and offer each other support.

Reflecting on my childhood I realized that through my elementary years, our family made a point of routinely eating together but as we entered middle school and high school my father’s work became more intense and busier. He was required to work longer hours and travel for prolonged periods. Slowly but surely, my mother, brother, and I became more unstructured with dinner time. Often, we would eat on our own schedules and sit in front of the television, spellbound by watching the tube instead of communicating.

Raising our two boys, Mark and I would have structured mealtimes up until the boys reached around grade one. Around that time, we enrolled the boys in music lessons and hockey. This then expanded into rep. basketball, school basketball, piano, guitar, and trumpet lessons. Before we knew it, dinnertime was interrupted by practices, traveling to games, and lessons. Often dinner was a squeezed-in necessity that seemed to happen on the run. When I look back, I realize that due to demands on facilities the 5-7 time slot was critical for leagues to function smoothly, BUT I also wonder why we as a group of families didn’t push back and request that nothing be scheduled for a designated dinner hour.

I am very grateful for the benefits that both our boys obtained from engaging in extracurricular activities such as sports and music, however, I do wonder if sometimes, we got lazy and drifted away from the structure of eating dinner together.

Dazzle’s suggestion? Try to be mindful of the number of your child’s extracurricular activities and the time demands. Are you sacrificing precious family grounding and unifying time in the interest of external activity? Remember the importance of balance and reconnecting with family members. Regardless of how important peers seem to our children ultimately, it’s parents whose influence reigns. Dinner time has potential to be great non-confrontational natural time to reconnect with one’s children, especially pre-teens and teens, who are predisposed to wanting to create some space from their parents. Dinner feeds more than our bodies, it strengthens the family bonds.