Did you know there has actually been research done on the benefits of families eating dinner together? Some of the findings may surprise you. Here are some of the results:
- Dinnertime conversations can boost vocabulary more than reading aloud to young children.
- Family mealtime together is a more powerful indicator of high achievement scores than time spent on sports, homework or creative arts.
- Children who eat regular family dinners consume more fruits and vegetables.
- Regular family dinners have been linked to reduced high risk teen behaviors such as drug use, eating disorders and violence.
While those are all tremendous benefits of eating dinners together, there are much simpler reasons we have made it a priority in our home.
Here are 5 reasons our family eats dinner together almost every night:
We get to spend time together. – The individuals in our family have very diverse interests. We have a music lover, a computer programmer, a competitive online gamer, a fisherman, an artist plus two parents with busy jobs. There are days that dinner time may be the only time we are all together. We intentionally set aside all electronic devices, turn the television off, and simply eat together. Some nights we talk about what’s happening in each other’s lives and other times we are just plain silly together. No matter how varied our interests are, we all have to eat so it’s a great time to connect with the ones we love most.
It helps us stay connected to each individual child. When you eat dinner together every day (or most days), you become more aware of each child’s “normal” behaviors and emotional state. By simple observation you will notice when they are more talkative, more quiet, more tired, quicker to get angry, withdrawn or anything out of the ordinary. When we see that one of our children is “off” at dinner time, we make it a point to spend some individual time with that child after dinner or as soon as possible. That private one on one time is when we really get to connect with that child, but without the regular interaction at family dinners we might not even notice when something is wrong.
It saves money. Even fast food for a family of seven can cost us close to $100. That just seems like such a waste of money to me. For around $20 we can make a healthy meal for our entire family and even have some left-overs for lunch the next day. Family dinners at home are great for our budget.
Dinnertime is a great time to model manners and behavior. Of course we want our kids to have good table manners such as using a napkin, eating with utensils instead of their fingers, and asking politely to pass the salt, but there are also social behaviors we model at dinner. We listen when someone else is talking without interrupting. We strive to respect and understand each individual even when we don’t agree with each other. We “fight fair” by discussing topics, not insulting people because of their opinion. (Don’t you know so many adults who clearly have never been taught these skills!)
It makes memories. There are many day to day activities that I can’t remember from when I was really young, but I do remember some of my favorite meals and eating them together with my family. That’s a tradition I want to pass down to my kids. Dinnertime is a really fun time in our house. Our kids have often said we should video our dinners and put them on a YouTube channel. We are spending time together that they will always remember, and I pray it’s such a wonderful memory for them that one day they will continue the tradition in their own families.
If dinner time together isn’t something you currently practice in your home, let me encourage you to give it a try. Even if you can’t eat together every night, do it as often as you can. Enjoy spending time together, get to know the behaviors of each individual child, save yourself some money, model manners and behaviors for your kids and enjoy making memories together. There are some great scientifically proven benefits from having family dinner time together, but even more importantly it could be a new tradition that brings your family closer together.