Bond with your Family: Eat Together

Written by Carolyn Campbell

familydinnerIt’s hard for me to forget about dinner. My thirteen year-old daughter, Alyssa, poses the same question daily. “What are we having for dinner?” she asks, usually in the early afternoon. Her inquiry makes me think, because I can tell that the answer is important to her. After I tell her what’s on the evening menu, she goes about her day with calm assurance. It’s as if looking forward to dinner makes the rest of the day go smoother for Alyssa.

Talking to Janet Peterson, author of the book, Remedies For The ‘I Don’t Cook Syndrome , I’ve discovered that Alyssa isn’t alone in anticipating her evening meal. Peterson says, “Eating dinner together regularly provides more than good nutrition; it enables family members to share their days with each other, relax, laugh, discuss social issues and strengthen family relationships.”

Why should we eat together?

  1. Family bonding. Eating a family meal creates an environment that fosters family conversation.
  2. Eating at home saves money. “Restaurants are in the business to make money,” says Peterson. “Their labors, real estate and profit margin all cost. If they don’t make money, they don’t stay in business.”
  3. Home-cooked meals are healthier. Commercially prepared foods are notoriously high in sugar, starch and fat, although some restaurants do list low-fat items on their menus, says Peterson. She adds that home cooking allows a family to select healthy ingredients, tailor meals to suit its own particular nutritional needs and tastes, serve portions appropriate to age and activity level and monitor methods of preparation.
  4. Eating at home promotes both learning and a healthy lifestyle. Preschool children who eat with the family have better language skills, according to the Rockford Clinic. Eating together as a family can teach good communications skills such as listening patiently and expressing one’s opinion in a respectful manner.
  5. Eating together helps children appreciate family tradition. Food served at the family table helps to shape and give lasting meaning to our cultural heritage, says Katherine Carson, associate professor of food science at Pennsylvania State College.

How can we eat together ?

  1. Make eating dinner together a priority. There’s truth to the idea that if you cook it well, they will come,” says Peterson. She suggests thinking of eating out as an occasion, not a habit. Some families set aside one night (or more) a week that is an agreed-upon sacred time for family dinner. No working late. No going out with friends. No signing up for classes or any other commitments for this one night.
  2. Be flexible in adjusting dinner time. Remember that the dinner hour can be adjusted, says Peterson. If there are schedule conflicts to eating dinner at the traditional hour, consider dining either earlier or later.
  3. Plan ahead to increase convenience. “There’s no need to spend hours in the kitchen-there are ways to make dinner happen without getting harried,” assures Peterson. Planning ahead can often make meal preparation more convenient.
  4. Keep the meals simple. Elaborate meals are not necessary for quality family time, says Peterson. To save time and effort, keep the meals simple and easy to prepare. Save the elaborate menus for rarer occasions when you have time to prepare them.
  5. Involve family members in meal preparation. Peterson explains that some children may be old enough to fix meals by themselves, and most children can assist in meal preparation. “By helping in the kitchen, children learn what it takes to make a meal. They also learn that it’s a priority in the family.”
  6. Turn off the television, let the machine get the phone. Make sure dinnertime belongs only to you by letting the answering machine take phone calls, turning off the television, and putting away the newspaper, says Peterson. If your family usually watches TV during dinner, begin with one or two meals with the TV off, and gradually increase the number as time goes on.
  7. Keep an upbeat atmosphere. Make dinnertime enjoyable with positive conversation, expressions of love, and moments of laughter, says Peterson. “It’s a time to connect with each other.” Don’t use dinnertime to resolve problems or to remind children of assignments.
  8. Teach by example. Begin early as newlyweds and then later with young children to have regular, nutritious, and pleasant meals together, so that dinner is an expected part of the family routine. Have a weekly planning meeting that includes putting dinner on the schedule.
    Peterson concludes, “View dinnertime as a precious time to talk together, to reinforce family values, to discuss issues, and to express love to each other.”

Related reading: Healing a Marriage – How Tom and Suellen healed their marriage (with video)

14 Responses to “Bond with your Family: Eat Together”

  • Sharon says:

    good article thank you for posting this

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  • Sharon says:

    good article we as I was growing up always ate together for breakfast and dinner it was nice breakfast was always rushed as we had to get to school too on time. I am remember those times with fondness.

  • I have always tried to eat as a family, but I never really knew why it helped. I had no idea that eating together helps children appreciate family tradition. I always assumed that it gave us a chance to catch up with the kids.

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Hi Dandy, the most effective change you can make to your home, family and marriage is to allow God to change you. Ask God to show you what change He wants you to make in your own life and let Him lead you. As He changes you it will surprize you how much the rest of your family will change as well.

  • dandy adesuwa says:

    How can i ignate or set a lampe of love over my home.i need a change in my marriage according to god plan.

  • Barbara Alpert Barbara Alpert says:

    Dear Myria,

    Have you spoken nicely to your husband about this matter? You mentioned that he only eats with the family on Sundays. How does this gathering go? Do you embrace a relaxing and enjoyable time together (on Sundays as a family) or is it filled with bickering and fighting? This coming Sunday you may want to take notice of how the occasion goes and from there begin to make changes if need be. How old are the children involved? Maybe midweek all of you can plan a special that each one of you prepares. One makes the salad, another makes the vegetables, assign the meat or whatever item that you desire to someone else, and someone else makes the special dessert to wrap up your “family night” to eat together. Hope this helps you out in forming a better family time at the dinner table. May God bless you and your family as you join together.

  • myria says:

    I have got a problem as family we don’t enjoy meals together. My husband drinks alcohol on a daily basis so every after work, he goes to the bar. we only get chance to have a meal with him on sundays. what should i do to make him have a meal as family? Advise.

  • Alfred says:

    I like the 8 points that our author makes in getting families to eat together! It has been a good custom in our family when I was growing up, and we continue to practice it with our children.
    Artria said it will, and I agree with her that involving the children at an early age sets the stage for life.
    Eating together in heaven is mentioned frequently in the Bible. There will be fellowship at mealtime. Having received physical as well as social nourishment in our earthly family, we can look forward to the same (only better) in eternity.
    I really appreciate this article and its responses, as there is a growing need for families to bond with our families. Maybe many of you will pass it on.
    Dear Heavenly Father, I thank You for providing all our needs. YOU created family, and gave us many good customs that will help maintain good relationships, so we can be nourished physically, spiritually, socially and in many other ways. We thank You for that and pray for You to help us pass this on to the next generation. I pray that eating together as a family will be promoted by those who love You. May we look forward to the “wedding feast of the Lamb” in heaven. With praise and glory to You, our Father, we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

  • artria says:

    I found that letting my little ones help prepare the food increased their willingness to eat it. They felt pride in their efforts and learned more about the process of cooking. It also gives me a chance to reinforce safety rules interactively. Kids remember more when hands on activities accompany your instructions. We include our thanks to Jehovah, our Lord, for providing us with food daily: appreciation. Pride, learning, understanding, and appreciation create healthy eating habits for life. They openly tell family the things they learn so the family can see their progress despite their mistakes. In turn, I can feel useful and proud as a mother, the amazing, large, sometimes hard, but always rewarding gift from God. I learn a lot about myself through my children. Providing a tasty meal for my family is a step between God and their ability to thrive.

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Are there ways that you have found that work to keep your family coming together at meal times Marak?

  • marak says:

    enjoying meal together is a qualified family activity that reraly done by modern family. it makes better relationship and internfamily understading.

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