“Studies show that families who eat dinner together on a regular basis tend to produce offspring who are happier, healthier, and oftentimes more successful.” (OnlineClasses.org).
I had the privilege recently of connecting with a reader, Alison M., who came across my blog and the post titled, The Gift of Family Dinners. She introduced me to research that she and some fellow designers put together regarding the impact that regular family dinners have on teens and their relationships with their parents. I have included the link to the article and would encourage you to click over and take a look for yourselves: http://www.onlineclasses.org/2013/01/14/family-dinners/ (Credit given to OnlineClasses.org).
I have spoken before about how family dinners have impacted my life, and now I want to share a little how they continue to positively influence the lives of our kids. We currently are raising a middle schooler who will soon cross over to his teen years with his sister very close behind, and a much younger one who is watching and learning and taking in everything his older siblings do. My husband and I stress the import role they have as models to their youngest brother, even though the ultimate responsibility of modeling belongs to my husband and me.
Take family dinners for example. It is my responsibility as the wife and mother, the heart of our home, to create an atmosphere that is pleasant, welcoming, nurturing, and accepting. That doesn’t mean that issues of obedience are never discussed and consequences never applied, but even during those “not-so-fun” experiences, my prayer is our house is one where once our kids are grown and living on their own, they will want to come back, knowing our door is always open and they are always welcome.
Our children are blessed to have the dad they do. He can turn an ordinary meal into an extraordinary experience with his personality, humor, and creativity. We have had more inside family jokes begin during dining experiences than I could count, but he also knows how to get to the heart of the matter as well. Our kids look up to their dad and he knows how to mix just the right balance of love and firm discipline to help them achieve their best. He’s slow to speak, making sure when he does talk, it’s something that will positively impact their lives. He’s also terrific at modeling his love for me to our kids and gives examples on a daily basis of how to treat a future spouse (to our sons) or how a woman should be treated (to our daughter).
This past December, from two separate people, I received “Conversation in a box” cards. You can imagine how excited I was about getting these! First of all, it touched me these individuals know me so well and how much I would love such a gift, and second, it was an opportunity for our family to grow our family dinners to the “next level,” and talk about deeper topics than our usual questions about our day, etc.
Our house is pretty evenly divided with three males (who are not as excited about sharing their feelings) to two female (who love to talk). I have to say, these cards are a great way to get us talking, laughing, and enjoying our mealtimes instead of focusing on who won’t eat their vegetables, how to get the three-year-old to stay seated for more than five minutes, or whose turn it is to wash, dry, and put away. They vary from serious topics (name something you’re afraid of and why) to more casual, fun activities (an altered version of twenty questions). I’ve been pleasantly surprised how everyone has gotten into the fun of the game and the answers shared have been at times predictable, sometimes funny, and other times very endearing. I’m learning things about my husband and my kids I never knew and it has opened up the line of communication for more in-depth conversations about important topics.
Another dinnertime activity has been to start a “blessings list.” I bought a simple notebook at the store, and several times a week (at this point it’s random, but I hope to become more consistent with it) we’ll pull out the notebook and write down one or two things each family member is thankful for. I wanted to find a positive way to get our focus off what went wrong during the day and instead realize how much we have to be thankful for. No matter what the blessing listed, it’s a chance for all of us to stop and consider how much we truly have and too often take for granted.
As our kids continue to grow and change, I want to keep family dinners as a place for us to come together after a long, busy day to reconnect. We’re still fortunate to be able to eat dinner with my in-laws once a week and my kids still prefer her cooking to mine. That’s okay – if I were honest, my cooking skills leave a lot of room for improvement. (I can bake a mean brownie, but my poor husband has to eat crunchy potatoes and undercooked rice.) I love it when we get to share meals with any of our extended family, love to share recipes, eat dishes that we don’t get to enjoy on a regular basis, and just soak in the fellowship with aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. Each experience gives us one more memory to share.
We only have a limited amount of time to positively influence our kids while they’re still living under our roof. I want to take full advantage of the opportunities God provides to pour into their lives as much as possible. I don’t want them leaving our house without knowing how important they are and how each one has a special purpose for their lives designed by the Creator Himself. If they leave fully embracing that truth, I’ll feel as though I did my job well.
No matter how your family spends their dinnertimes, as long as it’s together, taking time to connect with each other, that’s what counts. Laughter makes life better and when kids know they’re accepted, loved, encouraged, and supported along the path toward adulthood, it makes a big difference in their outlook on life. I know that the above article encouraged me our family is heading in the right direction. I would love to encourage your family along the path as well. Thank you, Alison M., for writing in and connecting with me and our friends.
Copyright: 2013 Cheri Swalwell