The Anatomy of a Positive Family Dinner Time
Healthy family communication is extremely important in your day-to-day routines, but it typically takes last place in most homes. Whether it is your and your spouse’s busy schedule, the hustle-bustle activities of the kids, or the ever-present TV distraction, mealtimes are rarely together as a family and typically fall to the “get ‘er done” syndrome. Healthy family communication is the inevitable loser and the result is that family members’ needs, wants and concerns get ignored or glossed over with little or inappropriate attention.
Opportunities for family members to express their needs, wants, and concerns to each other without fear of rejection or being ignored are essential. Solving family issues relies heavily on the family members being able to talk and listen to each other in an environment that encourages honesty, trust, acceptance and fairness. Family dinner time can provide such an environment.
This brings us to the anatomy of a positive family dinner time, a dying tradition in family bonding that offers a unique and underappreciated opportunity to instill the value of taking time from a busy week to touch base with, encourage and support each other. Family dinner times are your best chance to address daily issues, express concerns and praise accomplishments, and is one of a select group of family activities that can be plopped right in the middle of your busy routine with little interruption and many immediate and long-term payoffs.
Here are but a few of the many reasons for the importance of regular family dinner times:
- Provides a ritualized daily activity that gives essential time to wind down and discuss each family member’s experiences of the day as a family.
- Develops important social skills, including the ability to express and discuss opinions and feelings in an acceptant group setting.
- Provides subtle but important marriage help to struggling couples by prioritizing eating meals together and setting common goals in an environment of warmth and acceptance.
- Provides a daily opportunity to teach and reinforce commitment, values, and basic life principles.
- Makes a daily statement about the importance and value of family time together.
- Creates a sense of family love, unity and strength that can translate to other areas of family life as the inevitable individual and family issues and problems arise.
- Provides a daily opportunity to reinforce the importance of hanging together, no matter what.
As parents, by committing to regular family dinner times you can send a clear message to your children that you value spending regular time with them and that they are more important than anything or anybody else. Therefore, make every effort to make the time a positive, encouraging and beneficial experience for every family member. Shun the temptations to let your family dinner time deteriorate into just another “task” to check off or hustle through. Stay on track, keep your commitment, set an example in attitude and demeanor, and “be there” in body and spirit. And remember, turn off the TV! You will in time be very glad you did. And the health of your family communication is worth all your efforts and sacrifices.