What Happened to the Family Dinner?

“All great change in America begins at the dinner table.” –Ronald Reagan

So many families rarely have dinner together anymore. Dinner has become a grab-and-go, run out the door, stuff it down your throat ritual. We don’t sit down to be in the moment with our closest loved ones, to pray and thank God for the abundance of gifts in front of us. When so many in the world are thankful for a small bowl of rice as their one meal of the day, we’re worried about whether our kids will make it to basketball practice in time.

We never stop to ask ourselves: what is better for my child’s soul—running them around to all their activities or giving them down time and a peaceful daily gathering with their family?

It’s nuts. But everybody is doing it.

Enough already. It’s time to take back dinner time.

Don’t think dinner really matters?

Google “kids who eat dinner with family” and see what you come up with. The research is endless, and the results prove it. The family dinner is a crucial part of raising a healthy child. And, I might add, a healthy, spiritually focused child.

Because I work two jobs and drive one of my daughters to school across town, time is not something I have an abundance of. I have been guilty of dinner-on-the-run and, at times, not having something healthy cooked up in the crockpot and ready to go at 5:30 in the evening.

More and more though, as the woman of the house, the head-that-turns-the -neck, I am putting my foot down. I work our family’s schedule around dinner because dinner matters. The times when life gets hectic and we’re out of our normal routine, I see the results. The kids are whinier. They complain that we don’t listen or spend time with them. And I notice they eat a lot of crap they shouldn’t be eating.

I am not saying sports are bad or kids shouldn’t be involved in them. Just do your best to keep them to one sport per child per season. Or scale them back as much as possible. Sports give kids a great cardiovascular workout, teach them important skills, and keep them out of trouble. But sports can go from recreational to all-consuming very easily.

A while ago, I was having a conversation with an acquaintance who told me her nine-year-old child finishes practice for one sport at 7pm and then goes straight to practice for another sport immediately after.

“When does she eat dinner?” I asked .

“In the car, on the way to practice,” the mom said.

Yikes! Yet, this story is way too familiar in our lives today. We’re raising kids who aren’t connecting with family members, and they’re sleep deprived on top of it.

Are you guilty of putting dinner on the back burner? If so, it’s never too late to change things. Grab your family calendar or iPhone and set the time in stone. Don’t schedule over it. Treat it as an important appointment.

And while you’re at the table, talk about your day with each other. I read a suggestion somewhere recently to have each family member share three good things that happened during their day at dinner time. So, we started doing this too. After we got past the initial “that’s cheesy” looks, it turned out to be something that broke the ice and brought us all closer as a family. My husband and kids all shared things about their day that I would not have known about otherwise.

Modern culture lies to us and tells us we don’t need old-fashioned rituals anymore. Orthodox parents (and all parents, for that matter) need to make sit-down family dinners a priority. When they’re all grown up and out of the house, these are the moments they (and you) will remember.

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Christina Pessemier is a writer, blogger, and mom of two.…
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