Dear Norwood-Fontbonne Community,
A common thread that appears so often in my conversations with parents is the fast pace of life. Even with a concerted effort, we all suffer the effects of over scheduling, especially our children. Sometimes it truly is the simple things that make the biggest difference. One such example is the family meal. Gathering together around the dinner table can be a challenge, but certainly worth the effort even if it can’t happen every night. While I believe cooking together as a family can be an excellent extension of the experience and skill builder for our kids, dining out and ordering in are great too.
Engaging in mealtime conversation builds family unity, fosters vocabulary development, and bolsters intellectual curiosity. Anne Fishel, (Washington Post Article) co-founder of The Family Dinner Project points to evidence that regular mealtime can be a stronger indicator of positive high school performance than doing homework or playing sports. Children are more likely to develop healthy eating habits and continue those habits as adults if they regularly eat family meals. Additional studies have shown improved overall health in children and a reduction in symptoms of chronic health conditions.
The family meal is often the most critical relationship builder in a family each day. It gives us all a chance to breath, share, connect and hopefully laugh. Sharing together in a meal can open conversation and strengthen connections beyond meal time.
Grace before meals and reflection on the blessings of the day and having food on our table is the perfect way to begin. Throughout the meal engage your kids in conversation with open ended questions about school and friends.
As kids transition into teens, while their inclination may seem to be to distance from family activity, they need the experience even more. Children who regularly have family mealtime are significantly less likely to engage in high risk behaviors such as drinking and drug use and show lower instances of anxiety and depression.
There is also evidence that family meal time also reduces stress for adults as well. We all need to build time into each day to be genuinely present with one another. Yes, that means no phones at the dinner table. (https://www.cnn.com/2011/10/25/living/family-dinner-h/index.html)
While we all need to be realistic, understanding it probably won’t happen every night, we can all make it a priority as much as possible.
Ryan Killeen, Ed.D.