Families today are so busy; homework and after school activities dominate the schedules. Occasionally throw in an orthodontic appointment or a piano lesson and the family schedule is over loaded. Many of us have been conditioned to handle a schedule so tight, but something usually has to fall to the way side.
With the demand of a busy schedule, family meal time is usually what gets shafted. This is not to say that our kids are eating badly or that we as moms are not meeting the needs of our children’s diets, this is just talking about the way that we spend our time while eating. The dinner table has been but on the endangered list for quite sometime. Will our children know the value of eating as a family in ten, twenty, even thirty years from now?
Many of us can remember shows like Leave It to Beaver, where family meals happened around the dinner table at least two times a day. The kids would come down to a well-prepared breakfast and dad would be sitting there with his newspaper, mom (Mrs. Cleaver) would be filling the juice glasses, as the boys sat down as if they had all the time in the world the air was filled with laughter and conversation. I know that television is just television and many of the things we watch are not realistic. However, just as the Cleaver family sat around the dinner table, so did many American families years ago. Dinner time around the table was priority before most functions.
Now, let me be real with you for a second, in my house we do not eat around the dinner table every night, due to our schedule of soccer, church, and other various activities. However, I will say that we sit down around the table with everyone present at least three times a week. So I would have to say three out of seven is not horribly bad and is a start. There are many families out there that I know that have never eaten a meal at their kitchen table. This is not to judge them in any way as they are all pretty amazing families, however I believe there are valuable lessons our children learn as they sit around the table at dinner time. What happens at a dinner table when you sit down to eat?
Conversation is one activity that many of us usually partake in while eating. Asking your child about his/her day, not only shows you are taking an interest in the day to day activities that are happening on the play ground or in the halls of the high school but it is also requiring your child to open up and talk to you. I find that I try and ask questions that require more then a yes or no answer. This requires my child to make eye contact and speak, which helps them build very important communication skills. Many of our kids today have a hard time making eye contact or feeling comfortable enough to carry on a conversation with an adult. I find many of the kids I run into, speak to the ground or look in an entirely different direction while carrying on a conversation. Communicating skills are taught and then developed from practice.
The value of family is also a great lesson to learn. In a country where the divorce rate is ridicules and still climbing, the value of the family unit can be over shadowed. Not every family will have both mom and dad, but teaching the value of unity is very important no matter what your family dynamic is and there are not many places as fun as the dinner table where one can eat and share in time together. Eating together as a family creates a safe place for families to discuss topics of interest. It’s a time that everyone is at attention so new ideas can be shared or discussed. I believe that dinner time should be a positive experience and not used for lectures or fighting. Keeping it upbeat and the family will keep coming back.
At the dinner table young children develop a longer attention span. It’s a time where they are forced to sit in one spot for a longer period of time. Keeping them involved in conversation helps keep their attention. Every time my family and I sit at the dinner table we play a game known as the “Hooray of the day, and the doom/gloom of the day.” This gets everyone talking.
I think that we can save the “dinner table,” if we can see the importance it has on the entire family but most of all the importance it has on our child’s development. I know I only have my kids for a short time and before I know it they will be grown and on their own, so making a lasting impression at dinner is important to me. We have made many memories at our dinner table and my kids will grow up knowing of its importance. I would love you to share your comments or stories that you may have around your dinner table.
**A great study, www.cfs.purdue.edu/CFF/promotingfamilymeals, on the impact of family meals and how it relates to educational success in kids and the decreasing chances of kids being affected by peer pressures like; smoking, drinking, and drugs.