Importance of Family Dinners
Modern families are much different from the “nuclear” family of two generations ago. Many families are no longer two parent homes. When a family does have two parents, both parents typically work. Children start extracurricular activities at a young age and often have schedules as complicated as an adult schedule. All too often four family members will have four different lives and family time is cut to a minimum. Making a commitment to share one meal a day together, typically the evening meal, can strengthen a family and bring more joy and peace to a busy home.
There are many positive reasons to make family meals a priority. According to a long term study conducted by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University www.casacolumbia.org updated in September 2011,spending time as a family at dinner is crucial for the well-being of the family. Children who feel involved in a family unit and who feel loved and appreciated by their parents are significantly less likely to become involved with drug and alcohol abuse. The time a family spends around the dinner table is one of the best investments parents can make in their battle to keep their children drug-free. Here are some of the reasons why committed family time, especially during a meal, is very important.
Opportunity to Bond:
Family members need to feel involved in each other’s lives. They need to have an open dialogue and to be comfortable sharing joys, triumphs, disappointments and sorrows. Children who are comfortable talking to their parents tend to be strong enough to avoid peer pressure. Children who receive love and attention from family are less likely to seek false love from fake friends and negative attention from teachers and parents. Shared meals naturally encourage communication.
Mental Health Safety Net:
When children feel connected to their families and valued by their parents they are more likely to share emotions. Children are going to be faced with challenges, disappointments and moments of helplessness and defeat. Children who trust their parents and feel connected to their families know they have support at home and are better able to handle their negative feelings in a healthy manner.
Talking about troubling events to a trusted adult can make life seem easier and make crises less intense. The best way to build trust and connection between family members is to spend time together, to talk with each other, to be involved. Family dinners create that trust and form a safety net that is ready and waiting to catch a child whenever he happens to stumble.
Regular family meals are just one way parents and children can spend quality, relationship-building time together. If dinner time simply won’t work find another time to be together. Block out time every Saturday to take a hike together. Spend twenty minutes together before bedtime each night talking about the day. Have ice cream out once a week. The point is to plan regular, predictable, consistent time together. Children need to know that their parents will be there for them and consistent family time fosters that conviction. Make family time a priority and your children will be less likely to turn to drugs, alcohol, promiscuity and other negative lifestyle choices when they are seeking love and comfort.