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Why We Bother with Family Dinner

It’s 6pm in my house, and a little pigtailed girl is counting forks: One, two, three, four, five.

Her older brothers fill glasses with water and milk, and bicker with each other about whose turn it is to feed the dogs.

I’m wiping the sauce I spilled off the counters and placing opened cans of green beans in the recycling bin.

It’s dinner time at my house, and while it’s definitely not a linen napkins and candlelight experience, it’s my favorite part of the day.

Like a lot of families, evenings are hectic in my house. There’s homework to supervise, shuttling kids to and from activities, and there are often errands to run for the next day. In addition to the kids’ busy schedules, my husband makes going to the gym every night a priority, and I have a class one evening a week.

With everything we have going on, it would be easy for us not to bother with family meals. After all, my life is not a 1950s era fantasy where Father knows best and Mother’s life revolves entirely around housework. I work from home and try hard to balance my own priorities with my family, and in many ways my parenting leaves a lot of room for improvement. I’ve found that a consistent family dinner anchors my family like nothing else, and by simply focusing on that one aspect of our day, I feel good about the difference I’m making for my kids.

Here are 6 reasons why we do bother with family dinners. It’s not always easy to pull off,  but it’s worth making time for and the benefits, I hope, will last a lifetime.


  • I Learn About My Family 1 of 6
    I Learn About My Family
    Each night at dinner we talk about our favorite parts of our day. It's a simple way to spark a conversation with my family, and it often leads to broader discussions about our school, work, and social lives.
  • My Kids Look Forward to It 2 of 6
    My Kids Look Forward to It
    I'll admit that we don't have dinner together every night; we probably average 4-5 evenings a week. When we do skip a night my kids notice. They look forward to it, since it's often the only time the 5 of us are together and engaged on a given day.
  • I’m More Aware of What My Kids Eat…Or Don’t Eat 3 of 6
    I'm More Aware of What My Kids Eat...Or Don't Eat
    I'm lucky that my children are adventurous eaters, but like all parents their nutrition is still a concern. One of my children is small than average, and that child's diet is something I monitor closely to ensure proper nutrition. By eating dinner together I'm able to observe what my children are eating. Sometimes they even encourage each other to try new things.
  • We’re Creating Memories 4 of 6
    We're Creating Memories
    Dinner time is a great opportunity for creating family stories and inside jokes. The dinner table is where many of my family's traditions originate!
  • It’s a Chance for the Kids to Contribute 5 of 6
    It's a Chance for the Kids to Contribute
    Our children help my husband and me prepare the meal and set the table. Since they each have certain jobs to do, it's a great way for them to understand team work and making a contribution to the household.
  • The Research Says It All 6 of 6
    The Research Says It All
    The research of the benefits of family meals really does say it all. According to The Family Dinner Project, shared meals contribute to lower rates of obesity, better performance in school, lower rates of depression and more.

More by Mary Lauren
Tips for a Good Night: 10 Bedtime Alternatives to TV for Kids
Navigating the Parent/Teacher Relationship: 10 Tips from Both Sides of the Classroom Door
7 Surprising Facts about Cold and Flu in Kids

 

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