This is so you can discuss the day’s positive and negative events. As my daughter was growing up, I insisted on this rule. If possible, we ate supper together. If this was not possible because of work schedules or some other unavoidable appointments, we tried to eat together at one of the other meals that day. Life in modern culture is hectic, so it’s important to have a time to slow down and check in with each other. Getting together for a meal served this purpose for us.
It strengthened our bonds with one another. It gave us time to share our lives with each other. It was a time for my daughter and wife to let me know about any problems they were having so that I could offer help or suggestions. It also gave me a heads up on how to help them to alleviate their stress. In addition, children who participate in evening meals together with their parents tend to do better in school. They get better grades and they have better social skills. My daughter was successful in school; maybe family meals helped.
Also, family dinners, as opposed to eating on the run, encourage better eating habits and in so doing discourage obesity. I mention this for a reason. Children who are obese are more likely to be targets of bullying and less likely to go to college. I’m not of the opinion that everyone needs to get a college degree. But those who aren’t on the college track need vocational training of some sort to help them make a good living. Anything that makes your son or daughter stand out in a way that is perceived by bullies as ‘different’ or ‘weird’ will make them a target. I am speaking from personal experience. My Tourettic tics made me stand out, and I paid one heck of a price for it.
You will want to be aware of ways that your child might stand out, in both negative and positive ways. For example, your daughter may get the best grades in her class, which could make her the target of the jealous crowd. Nobody is completely immune from being bullied, but you can teach your child how to survive on his or her own. Family meals will help you stay in touch with what is happening in your child’s life. If family meals are routine, those discussions will come more easily than those awkward emergency sit-downs. It’s also more natural to involve them in the cooking process. This may seem like a minor thing now, but you are not always going to be available to help them when they are in college or in their own home or apartment. My daughter recently told me that now that she has her own apartment she is grateful for all of the things that I taught her while she was living at home.
Perhaps the most important consequence of having regular meals together is this one. In an article published in 2014, Dave Greenbaum of UCLA wrote that his research showed that sharing a regular meal time is associated with reduced depression, delinquency, and substance abuse. This in itself is invaluable. He went on to say that sharing a meal is more than about eating. It is about sharing time with someone you care about. This last one I can personally vouch for. In my mid-teens, my family almost never had a regular meal together. Guess what, I am the only one of my original family who is still alive. My father died from acute alcoholism, my mother from drug addiction, and my brother from both. I am the only one of the four of us who never did drugs, drank alcohol, or smoked.
According to an article published in JAMA Pediatrics, Reggie Green wrote that children who have regular meals with their families also show a stronger response against cyberbullying, which is incredibly destructive. Children who spend more time with their families lessen their time online, hence reducing the possibility of being subjected to online abuse. Did I mention that the dinner table should be a phone-free site? What is the purpose of sharing a meal with your family if everyone is on their cell phone? Sitting with others at a table anywhere, restaurant or home, you are being extremely discourteous and disrespectful if you haul out the cell phone while sitting at the table with your family. After all, the whole purpose of eating together is to communicate with each other. With the exception of an emergency. There are few things that cannot wait thirty or forty minutes until the meal is over.