Monday, May 5, 2008

What's For Dinner?

I'm reading a book about the power of eating dinner together as a family. I've only just started it, but WOW! This is such an important thing. I've always thought so, and it's something Scott and I decided we would do a long time ago, it just is the way we do life in our home. It's actually getting to be more and more fun, the older the kids get. Their observations of the world spill out on the dinner table, and we get to see into them.

What has surprised me though, is how important it is for families to eat together when the kids are older...teens. It makes sense, but I just hadn't gotten that far in my thinking about it ('cuz we aren't living there quite yet). Here's a quote:

"Just at the time when substance abuse rises, from ages twelve to seventeen, is the time when family dinners decline. When you look at high school juniors and seniors, only a third have dinner with their parents on a regular basis. It's easy to see how this comes about. older kids are busy, often tightly scheduled. In many ways, they are quite capable of being on their own, managing busy lives full of activities, jobs, schoolwork, and friends. It is easy to lose track of the fact that they still need the regular contact, the feeling that they are part of a group. They still need and crave adult guidance, even if they communicate the opposite....If we want our kids to lead healthier lives, we should eat with them more often. We should not give up our close contact, or underestimate our influence. And we should not pull back as they enter their teenage years....The meals...set the stage for the kinds of interaction we hope will happen between parents and teens. Parents are so important in their kids' lives. And supper is such an obvious place for kids to get regular access to parental presence and low-key attention."

There are just so many benefits to eating at home improves both physical and emotional health for everyone at the table, not to mention the financial incentives. As the prices of everything keep creeping up, it really pays to plan out a week of dinners, and feed the family together at home. And the laughing! That's what has me hooked. We've got a funny table here at our joint.


Nathan said...

That is fascinating. Are there studies or statistics cited at all?

And do they count eating in front of the TV together, as "eating together?"

I would imagine the correlation is across the board, and would factor into other inter-family habits, not just the meal (i.e. computer, video games, sports, etc)


--julie said...

Hi Nathan,
Thanks for stopping by! Yes, she (the author, Miriam Weinstein) cites several different studies. The passage I posted is from a section summarizing the findings of a 2003 study done by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University. They talk to 1200 teens, from 12-17 years old, and have done it every year since 1996.

One more quote regarding this same study..."They found that, when came to predicting kids' behavior, eating dinner with family was more important than church attendance, even more important than grades at school."

I'm only 50 pages in, but I think she's going to say the important part about eating together is that we be facing each other, no TV or reading....