Pull Up a Chair
July 30, 2012
Did you know there is a family activity that has the power to improve children’s grades and boost mental and physical health; discourage teens from promiscuity, smoking cigarettes, using drugs, or abusing alcohol; and helps to reduce obesity and increase healthy eating? Believe it or not, the activity that achieves all of this is the family dinner. Think of dinner time together as a family safety net.
Family therapist and nutrition expert Ellyn Satter says, "Meals are as essential for nurturing as they are for nutrition. Meals provide us all with reliable access to food and they provide children with dependable access to their parents. Without meals, a home is just a place to stay."
"Be home by six" was a non-negotiable rule at my house growing up. I look back on my family meal times, especially Sunday dinner, with fondness and appreciation. The family meal, once a respected ritual, is in danger of disappearing from modern life. Today, children eat 1 out of 5 meals in the car. Other meals are eaten in front of the TV, alone in a bedroom, over the sink, or in front of a computer.
Many parents today feel they have too much to do and not enough time to do it. Trying to get the entire family together for a meal may seem daunting. The trick is to start out slow and simple:
- Set a goal: If once a week is doable for your family, start from there. Keep the meal simple; the important part is being together.
- If week nights are impossible, try late-night dessert get-togethers, Saturday breakfast or brunch, or Sunday dinner instead.
- Make dinner time a priority. Set the expectation that family dinner time is just as important as soccer practice, hair appointments, club meetings, or other activities.
- No cell phones, TV, or other distractions are allowed at the table. No leaving the table until everyone is finished.
- Get the family involved in preparing, setting the table, and cleaning up.
Food for Thought: The Barilla Share the Table Survey found that 71% of parents say they feel more appreciated by their children when they take time to have dinner together, and 70% of kids appreciate their parent/s more when they take time to share a meal together. With good news like that, pull up a chair, pass the potatoes, and reconnect with family members – one meal at a time.
Books available at MCPL that will help you reach your goal of sharing family meals together:
- Dinner With Dad: How I Found My Way Back to the Family Table by Cameron Stracher
- The Family Dinner by Laurie David
- Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal by Eric Schlosser
- Robin Rescues Dinner: 52 Weeks of Quick-Fix Meals, 350 Recipes, and a Realistic Plan to Get Weeknight Dinners On the Table by Robin Miller
- Whatever Happened to Sunday Dinner? : A Year of Italian Menus, With More Than 250 Recipes, That Celebrate Family by Lisa Caponigri