The Magnitude of Family Dinners

Glory Talbott
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There’s a saying that a woman’s work is never done. I think for many of us that statement rings true. As a mother, I wanted to jump on every opportunity my family had in getting our daughters involved in extracurricular activities, in addition to their busy days chock full of schoolwork. But before I knew it, every evening was full of activities—from dance practices, to evening sports, to 4-H meetings. It couldn’t go on forever, and the effects started to show.

Soon, my husband and I realized, every weekday evening we were rushing to fit dinner in somewhere while heading out to the next activity. Our family dinners were lacking because we simply didn’t have the time to sit, eat and converse.

While getting involved in these other activities can be beneficial and provide an outlet of creativity and skill, without balance in all things, it can start to become more of a burden than a benefit. We did not cut out all of the activities, but dropped one or two, because unrushed family time is so crucial.

Eating together as a family in a laid-back atmosphere, with no time frame for how long the dinner should take, makes room for more conversing, communicating and reconnecting—all of which is essential for a healthy family. Studies show that family dinners are advantageous for children of every age. A national public research firm conducted a nationally representative telephone survey of more than a thousand young people (493 boys, 510 girls ages 12–17). The results showed that teens who had frequent family dinners were more likely to have high-quality relationships with both mother and father. The study reported teenagers who had a less-than-good relationship with their parents were three to four times more likely to have used marijuana, more than twice as likely to have used alcohol, and more than two and a half times more likely to have used tobacco.

When considering signing our children up for evening activities, as mothers, we should consider that family dinners are extremely important in setting a foundation for positive relationships with our children. This practice, if consistently applied, improves their decisions to avoid substance abuse, and has many other favorable outcomes. Prioritizing family dinners is important to reap the rewards of bonding with our children and teens, and it definitely gives an opportune time for them to open up to us with their hopes, thoughts and concerns.

In Ecclesiastes 3, we are told there is a time for everything: “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven” (v. 1). And truly, there is a time for activities also, and a time to stop and enjoy a dinner of thankfulness and cohesiveness as a family. We should be carefully planning frequent weekday nights when we can stop and connect as a family. Children and teenagers can also be taught to help prepare the meals (doing that with one’s mother can be a highly bonding experience, too) and to clean up, which also teaches responsibility and work ethic.

For single women, the stage can be set now, by learning how to cook and how to set a table for company. This gives you the foundation to build closeness in your future family! Family-time is a precious commodity in our busy society, and coming together at the end of hectic day presents an opportunity for building closer family bonds. The work is not in vain, and serving your future family with dinner nights will benefit your own children and teens as they learn to be part of a functional family, too!

Let us all learn to schedule and prepare for those enjoyable and blessed evenings as a family coming together in unison. In Proverbs 31:15, we see the virtuous woman made this a priority: “…and [she] provides food for her household.”

For further study, check out this resource for nine scientific benefits of eating together as a family. Also, be sure to read “Quality Dinners and Healthy Families.