Tag Archives: family eating together

Sunday Morning Shout Out

dinnerWe all know dinner together as a family is important.  But did you know it is the best predictor of how adolescence will go for our children?  In my favorite go- to place for professional advice about “Happy Familiying,” Dr. Laura Markham, Ph.D., at the “Aha Parenting” website, discusses why dinner and eating together are the glue that keep families strong.

Dinner is a protective factor for all family members and an extremely powerful one for adolescents, especially.  The more frequently teens eat with their families, the more likely they are: to do well in school, not do drugs, and become sexually active in high school, depressed, or suicidal.  They are many factors at play.  Families that regularly eat together, offer structure and routine to their children.  They offer oversight and supervision to teens and all children, in a world that can be utterly fast and risky for all.  Dinnertime offers children a sense of identity as a family, tradition, and stability.  In a world where a lot is changeable and stressful, regular dinner offers a family a constant.  Dinnertime is a place to check in with one another about each other’s day—the good, bad, and ugly.  It is a place to ask more questions about what occurred at school; what your children’s feelings and thoughts are about family events; and it is a place to weigh in, for all parties.  Most importantly, it is a place to belong, connect, and build better relationships.

As ideal as this sounds, life is not always conducive to sitting down together.  Many different schedules can exist in the same house.  If this is not happening at all, Markham says to aim for a few days a week.  The more times you can do this, the greater the effect! Perhaps it is a single parent home. Maybe, one spouse works later than another.  There is still great power in sitting down together regularly, as a family with a single parent or as a family where one parent is the regular one at dinner.  Markham suggests if one parent gets home later than the other, everyone could sit down and have a snack together.  Or, there could be special emphasis placed on weekend dinners together.  Weekends could then be kept sacred for dinner.  She also states that families may want to adjust dinner time to eat earlier or later, if it means everyone can eat together.

There are other practical things to keep in mind, according to Markham.  Do not get hung up on making an elaborate dinner, at the expense of energy, patience, and time! It is better to put all these ingredients into the actual activity of connecting with one another.  She also talks about creating a welcoming dinner atmosphere, and biting your tongue as a parent if needed.  The idea is build up one another and connect as a family, rather than tearing each down over a difference of opinion or behavioral critique.  She lists some creative resources for promoting dinner conversation, so it goes beyond, “How was your day?”  One classic approach is having everyone give their high and low points of the day-or their roses and thorns.  The point is to connect, converse, and feed more than just the appetite.  When we do this with our families, we do so much more than eat….


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Filed under Health, Parenting

Rules of Engagement

There are lots of things that can make people lose their appetite. A fly in your soup, someone chewing with their mouth open, or a dinner companion that insists on talking about health issues during the entire meal may all be reasons you would prefer to be excused before the dessert course. Everyone has their pet peeves when it comes to mealtimes, but one of the most common is dining with someone who displays a decided lack of table manners. To help your child avoid this fate, why not try establishing some new table rules that make your table a better place to be? The following are our suggestions, but feel free to suggest others!

Family meals should be enjoyable and respectful, not stressful! (Image Credit: Google Images)

Be On Time

When a meal is ready to be served, everyone should be seated at the table who plans on eating. Strolling down half-way through dinner is disrespectful, and disrupts the flow of everyone else’s meal.

Try It, You’ll Like It

To demonstrate respect for the cook, all food should at least be sampled, barring food allergies or other dietary restrictions. This enforces not only being a polite and considerate person, but also the fact that stepping outside your comfort zone and trying something new is something to be valued and encouraged. While some families institute a three-bites rule or something similar, you’ll have to find what works for your family. Maybe forcing a child to take more than one bite is inviting a total meltdown in your home, but that doesn’t mean you should shy away from insisting that everything on the plate should be tasted and given a fair shot.

Please Turn Off All Electronic Equipment

A recent phenomenon I’ve noticed in restaurants is an entire table sitting in silence, each person engrossed in their cell phone. Not only is this being extremely rude to anyone else at the table, but it also makes eating a less special or meaningful time. It’s hard to enjoy a good meal and excellent company when you’re busy sending off your twenty-fifth text message of the morning. Institute an electronics-free policy at your table, and get rid of the background noise TVs, iPods, and cellphones provide. This will allow your family to engage with each other, not electronics. Make sure this rule is followed by everyone at the table, though, or else it won’t be nearly as potent!

The Magic Words

While the magic words (aka “please” and “thank you”) should be used in daily conversation, their use should be especially enforced at the table. This demonstrates respect for others and keeps your child from sounding like a brat.

Keep it Appropriate

Conversation should be lively, but also appropriate and respectful. Not everyone wants to hear about the pig dissection taking place in your daughter’s biology class, so establish boundaries of civility that work for your family and clearly communicate them to everyone. Tell your kids that when in doubt, they should err on the side of caution and not bring up any potentially inappropriate material.

May I Please Be Excused?

Getting up and leaving the table without a word is extremely rude. While this phrase is usually just a social nicety rather than an actual question, for younger children who want to shovel two bites into their mouth and bolt it may be a realistic question. While you may not want to try and fight with a toddler about staying at the table for an entire meal, they should at least have some practice at not eating and running.


Helping out and being part of the meal ritual is very important. Whether it’s setting the table, clearing your own dishes, or helping to make the food, everyone should be involved somehow in the process of making food. That way, everyone has ownership and noone feels overly put-upon.

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Filed under My Experiences