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Family Dinner with Your Children

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The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA) in 2001 started the observance of “Family Day: A Day to Eat Dinner with Your Children.” CASA’s research shows that “the more often kids have dinner with their families, the less likely they are to smoke, drink, or use other drugs,” as explained by Kathleen B. Ferrigno, Director of Marketing for CASA.

As every mother comes to realize, family dinners provide a variety of opportunities for mothers to teach, interact with and encourage their children. When a mother involves her children in helping with meal planning and preparation (and it is OK for Dad to help, too!), the helpers quickly realize that a nutritious, well-presented meal does not just “automatically” appear on the table. Children learn that Mom works hard to provide meals, spending time shopping for the best ingredients and preparing special recipes that everyone enjoys. Including children in meal preparation teaches them everything from how to set the table to how to stay within the family budget.

But there is more to having dinner together than just the physical efforts required to produce the meals. As Ferrigno points out, children benefit from family time in many ways. CASA’s research should help all mothers see the value of spending more time with their children—whether it occurs during the dinner hour, or at other times of the day. During this difficult period of our economy, many families are struggling, with Mom and even children working part-time or full-time to help Dad make ends meet. In such an environment, scheduling a family dinner hour can be challenging, but is well worth it.

A family that accepts the challenge to eat together on a regular basis soon discovers that the kids have a lot to say that might otherwise go unnoticed. As mothers hear their children describe their experiences at school, they obtain a wider window into their child’s daily environment—including any threats or dangers that could be present there. Eating meals together provides the whole family with a relaxing venue conducive to stimulating conversation. Not only will we who are mothers come to know our children more intimately; our children will have the opportunity to ask questions about a variety of topics they may have been wondering about. Important lessons about God and His plan for all of us can be taught around the table. Children learn family values when they witness the family interacting in such a positive way. Mealtime can become a time to look forward to for the entire family—and as mothers we have a special responsibility and opportunity to make this important time special.

This year, Monday, September 24, is “Family Day: A Day to Eat Dinner with Your Children.” Our children are among the most precious gifts God gives to us. Years ago, eating meals together as a family was a ritual that most people practiced. The value of those special times together, at the end of each day, was understood and was an American tradition. We all have memories of eating together on special family occasions, so we know from experience how the bonds developed around the family dinner table will last a lifetime. If possible, make every day a Family Day, and begin a tradition in your family that will produce lasting benefits for years to come!