There is a crisis in our community. Many children do not eat dinner with their families in the evening. Everyone eats different food, at different times, and often while doing other things like talking on the phone, texting, emailing, watching television, doing homework or on the run. This is changing the excellence of our culture – and diminishing our nutritional intake, socialization skills, school performance and viability as a society. It adds to obesity as well, a growing concern. It is that important.
Studies have shown that children who eat dinner with their families feel more socially connected to their parents. And that is an investment that you dearly want and need when your kids get to their teenage years. In addition, children who eat regularly with their parents or just one parent or even a parent substitute ( a family member or loving caregiver) as a family, also do better at school, and are more confident with their peers. And guess what? It’s cost effective and nutritious too! Over half of the family budget goes into eating out. Save money by eating at home. And even a larger percent of that budget for eating out, goes into fast food – not a great choice for our little ones. You are likely to choose healthier food by being conscious of what you feed your family at home.
The best of all situations is to cook with your children. I advocate that all the time – it teaches motor skills in stirring, measuring, and whipping, as well as math skills in deciding how much to add, subtracting and multiplying when needed. It also teaches delayed gratification – preparing, cooking and adding ingredients with sensitivity and care – and then waiting until something you have prepared is ready- all excellent skills for children to have as they grow up and enter an even more stressful and demanding world of choices and demands. Here is Jack my eldest grandson, loving the feel of the flour between his fingers.
As a working mom all of my motherhood years, and now as a partially retired grandma, I know how hard this is to do. There were many years when I was not home to cook, never mind to eat with my son. But there was someone there – a dearly beloved elderly housekeeper who loved to cook for him – and thus a mother-substitute for the years when economically we had to have a dual career household to progress in our lives and careers ( and that was throughout our son’s entire life at home with us). Rarely did my husband get home at night to eat with our son due to the demands of his profession. But we both made a point of being together on Friday nights -I would fly into town just for that one day if I had to – so that at least once a week there was a family meal – with a table laid, much discussion and time to be together. It was not perfect, but being able to look forward to that one night, was key. For all of us.
As the years went on, my son would invite his friends to join us at the Friday night dinners and so they grew and grew – and with great joy, I would host young men and women as they entered their middle and high school years, when Friday dinners would go on for many hours as they all hung around chatting with each other and with us. And then when they went off to college, in their breaks, they would come home and spend at least one Friday night with us – homecooked food, baked bread, happy chatter and debate – and grateful thanks for the week that had passed and the one that was to come. Such joy.
Now my son and wife with dual careers and four little boys are struggling with the same challenges -and I see how very hard it is for them to find the time to have that family meal. But we all know it is worth the struggle – and will pay off big time in the future. Here are my son and daughter in law, my husband and I, on my 60th birthday – at a surprise party that they gave me – a cooking lesson at a fine restaurant ! With aprons that my son arrange to have made up for the event, and with all my closest friends and family there to participate – what a thrill! You can see how happy I am! And so it continues….I am truly blessed.