Growing up, my husband’s family didn’t sit at the dinner table. His father was a high school basketball coach and often gone at dinner time so my husband and his brother ate mostly in front of the TV. Sitting around the table wasn’t done except on holidays or when company was over.
I grew up with a totally different scenario. We ate dinner together – every night at the table. My brother and I always knew to be home by 6 p.m. for dinner. It was considered a treat to eat in front of the TV.
Of course, in college and when I lived on my own, there were more meals in front of the TV or a book. And when my husband and I got married, we had many meals while watching our favorite shows.
And then we had kids.
I of course wanted to go back to what I remembered as a child – family dinners at the table. But my husband didn’t want to change. He liked eating in front of the TV or computer.
But there are so many benefits for eating together at the table.
1.) Studies have shown that dinnertime conversations can boost the vocabulary in young children (even more than reading aloud to your child).
2.) Kids who eat together at the table tend to do better on exams, stay in school and get better grades.
3.) Studies show that family dinners lower a host of high-risk teenage behaviors such as smoking, drinking, eating disorders and drug use.
4.) Eating together offers you a time to connect with one another and find out what happened in each other’s day.
5.) Kids who eat at the table are more likely to eat healthy and have less change of being obese. Those eating at the table usually eat more vegetables and less fried foods and soda.
Now of course, a family meal where no one talks or the parents yell at their kids won’t improve anyone’s relationship, but I do believe that eating together has more benefits than negatives. And for many families, dinner time may be the only time of the day when they can reconnect, relax and catch up on the day’s happenings.
I have often told my husband that when he shows me a study that says eating in front the TV (often in different rooms from the rest of the family) is a good thing, then we can adopt that practice. Until then, we will eat at the table most nights.
Right now, we eat five days a week (Sunday through Thursday) at the table and on Friday and Saturday night everyone can choose their own place to eat whether that is in front to the TV for family movie night or on their iPads/computers or eating while building Legos. This way we have it both ways. We can reap the benefits of eating together but also have a few days of doing our own thing.
Need help getting family dinners together? Check out The Family Dinner project for tips on getting started, initiating conversations and just having fun together at dinnertime.