“Mealtime is a strong predictor of childhood well-being. A national study of young children’s time (age 3-12) found that more mealtime at home was the single strongest predictor of better achievement scores and fewer behavioral problems. Mealtime was more powerful than time spent in school, studying, church, playing sports or art activities” writes Dr. William Doherty.1
And for teenagers, the benefits are even greater. With five or more meals with family members, studies have found lower rates of alcohol and drug use, early sexual behavior, and suicidal risks decrease substantially. Teens also have higher academic success when family dinner is part of their everyday lives. With conclusions such as this, eating together as a family is worth the effort!
As a mom, I see many other benefits for family dinner. Not only is it nice to reconvene after a busy day apart but time spent with knees tucked under the table is a wonderful chance to instill family values and life lessons. Here are a few to consider.
• Family members have an opportunity to share their day with one another. Communication and problem solving can be modeled for children. Older siblings can offer advice on how to navigate middle school or tips on how to handle the bully on the playground.
• Use time together at the table as a devotional or Bible study time. The newly released Whit’s End Mealtime Devotions by John Avery Whittaker, Crystal Bowman and Tricia Goyer is a great example of a tool for family dinnertime.
• Healthy eating habits can be encouraged with both food choices and serving sizes. Have children help in planning the meals. Choose from a wide variety of foods.
• Manners can be taught at the dinner table. Good table manners include sitting at the table until excused, keeping the napkin in the lap, using a quiet voice during the meal, eating with utensils rather than fingers, saying please and thank you, and of course…complimenting the chef.
• Children learn to use the kitchen and to help. Have your children set the table and assist in the kitchen. When children participate in the dinner preparation, they gain confidence and a sense of accomplishment.
• Instruct children in saying grace, thanking God for the provision of food on the table. Start little kids with rote prayers. Ask older children to say an original prayer for dinnertime.
All the benefits are helpful in raising our children but one stands out above the rest, the love and camaraderie shared between family members. It’s just plain fun to be together, sharing life with the ones you love the most.
Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for mankind,
for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.
By Becky Danielson, M.Ed.
Wife to Scott, Mom of 2
Co-founder of 1 Corinthians 13 Parenting