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What's The Best Meal Time For Your Family to Connect?

Carla Birnberg

Posted on September 07 2015

I was born in the '60s.  An era of family dinners, women mainly working inside the home, and jobs *really* being 9-5.

Life is strikingly different now.

Many women work outside the home. Kids are crazy over-scheduled with after school & weekend activities. It's rarely a reality to get home from an office by 6 pm. If my mom-friends are any indication dinnertime has morphed into a period more of chaos than connection. They lament the fact kids "have" to eat the evening meal in the car en route to practices.  Stories abound of one parent *consistently* eating dinner with the kids while the other is still working/stuck in a long commute home. Screens are turned on so parents can multitask and/or catch up on work.

This approach to meal time isnt healthy for our families or our connection to partners/spouses. Here's what I have found:

  • Studies show toddlers acquire eating habits by watching us.  This study was conducted by ME in *my* home---but you get the idea.  We all know kids mimic what they see. A screen-free, mindfully eaten, conversation-filled meal together is one of the best teaching tools around. 
  • Studies show older children share at mealtime. Disclosure: Another study from my domicile, yet I believe it true.  Family meals offer teaching moments  AND provide opportunity for conversation games which give insights into a child's day.
  • Studies show teens who experience family dinners are less likely to use alcohol/drugs. The data here isn’t clear why, but seems to indicate bonds created through family gathering encourage teens to be more open.  I’d guess it boils down to TIME.  The more TIME we spend with our kids--the more we'd *notice* if something seemed "off."

Wait.  Did I say we never eat family dinners?  When I became a mom I quickly realized family dinners would never work for our early rising, late-at-office trio.  As a result, I implemented the family breakfast.
While other families are sleeping or muddling through their mornings we make the time to gather.  We sit sans-screens, chat about the happenings of yesterday and share what we’re looking forward to that day.

For us this family meal time works perfectly.  We get the nighttime family meal benefits plus there's no chance a surprise meeting/deadline will intrude on our time.  My favorite piece is how perfectly it launches my day.  I feel as though I matter.  I feel optimistic and content.  I feel *connected* to those most important to me.  All before my day truly begins.

And you?
What do you think?
Are you a believer in the family meal?


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