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Guilt Tripping Over Family Dinners

By sandymaple |

Family dinner

In case you haven’t heard by now, eating together as a family is good for your kids. Study after study has found that children who eat frequent meals with their families are less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol and are more likely to make good grades in school.  Parents who manage to pull off regular family dinners pat themselves on the back and feel confident that they are doing all they can to reduce their kids’ chances of becoming drug-abusing dropouts.  Good for them, but what about the rest of us? 

The idea of the family dinner as the ultimate preventative parenting tool has become so ingrained that those of us who can’t manage it often feel tremendous guilt.  Whether it be due to work, school or extracurricular activities, many families like mine find getting together for dinner to be incredibly difficult if not impossible.  Still, we run ourselves crazy trying to get a meal on the table and beat ourselves up when we can’t.

But is it really worth killing ourselves to get everyone gathered around that tuna casserole?  Probably not.  Even the experts will admit that the science behind the whole family dinner debate can be misleading.  Eating meals together as a family is associated with better outcomes for kids, it doesn’t cause it.  And likewise,  not eating meals together doesn’t guarantee your child a bleak future.

What does matter is being involved in your children’s lives. Experts say that parents who place importance on eating meals together are likely to be actively involved in other aspects of their children’s lives as well.  It’s not about the food, it’s the quality time.

I’ve long since given up on the elusive dream of the family dinner.  Even when I could manage to to pull it off, I was usually so stressed and harried that I couldn’t relax and enjoy it.  We eat separately and happily now and find our quality time where we can.  And if that quality time is sometimes found in the drive-through lane of a fast-food joint, then so be it.

Image: sxc.hu

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0 thoughts on “Guilt Tripping Over Family Dinners

  1. Ali says:

    Thanks for tis dose of common sense.

  2. STRONG Fathers says:

    Eating dinner together is a great way to create shared ritual and experience. It is an amazing way to begin creating a culture of communication and involvement in each others lives, but it isn’t the only way to do that. If it doesn’t work for your family, it doesn’t work. I encourage parents to make a point of eating with the kids when they can, even if it’s not both of you. The main thing is, as you say, to be involved. Identify other moments where it’s easy to connect. Bedtime, wake-up time, ride/walk to school take it where and when you can. http://www.strongfathersmaine.org

  3. Kikiriki says:

    I agree with the sentiment of this post but honestly, do you need to snark against the people who do eat together as a family? Honestly, what was the point of that – to make yourself feel better? I don’t understand why so many Strollerderby posts have this need to inject an aura of high-school cattiness into whatever subject is at hand.

  4. GP says:

    What on earth is so hard about eating dinner together? Geesh…people today make everything such a big ordeal. Maybe peoples lives have become too complicated. Why not eat later if parents are at work and kids have extracurricular activities? People shouldn’t feel guilty if they don’t do it, but acting like it’s so hard is just silly.

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