Happy (I Hope) National Eat Dinner Together Week! (September 16-22, 2007)

By , September 18, 2007 10:15 pm

I read on Mama’s Moon (Monday Morning Munchies) that this week is National Eat Dinner Together Week. National Eat Dinner Together Week was inaugurated in 1996 by America’s Pork Producers and the National Pork Board. Despite the meaty sponsor, even vegetarians can participate in this (hopefully) worthy venture.

I started out researching this post thinking I could cite one, or maybe two studies and have the information all there for you. But, apparently there are many studies that each contribute a few small aspects to the big picture.

Being a terminal nerd, I hate it when an article says “studies say…” without giving a citation. What I learned in one hour of research however, is that if I wanted to spend an entire year on this post (which I can assure you, I don’t) I could.

So this time I shall just have to overcome my natural nerdy tendencies and simply say, here are five benefits of kids and parents / parent eating dinner together at least five times per week. It all makes logical sense to me:

1) Better nutrition. In most cases, kids eat better at home (less fast food and junk). Plus they learn better dietary habits.

2) Kids do better in school and are less likely to use drugs and alcohol (for the whole study, click here).

3) Family dinner creates an automatic “check-in” time. Kids must be home and available to talk about their day.

4) Dinnertime conversation helps with language skills (and, on a personal note, I would have to add – table manners, an important, but often overlooked skill these days).

5) Spending time together as a family creates happy memories (hopefully!) and family bonding.

On the flip side: If your family is really dysfunctional, studies show that perhaps family mealtimes might not be so beneficial.

Some good advice for everyone, whether dysfunctional or not, is to focus on open-ended questions and not discuss super sensitive topics at the table. If you ask an open-ended question it is always very telling to see where kids will take it, and can lead to some valuable exchanges of information.

Of course it easy for me, mother of three children age 7 and under to pontificate on the virtues of family meals. Those of you with active teenagers may be wondering how to fit family meals in along with sports, cheerleading, play practice, dance, music and whatever else kids do these days.

I have my own views on the drawbacks of overscheduling children’s lives, but since my children are so young, it is hard for me to provide much practical advice on how to avoid this all-to-common phenomenon. If anyone has successfully managed to escape the vicious cycle of teen activities, please feel free to speak up in the comments or an email. I am eager to take notes for the future!

Some links for further information:

The 5 Benefits-and a Few Risks-of Eating Together at the Dinner Table

Family Mealtimes: More Than Just Eating Together

Eat Better, Eat Together: Background Research on Family Meals

And, on a lighter note, don’t miss this quick post on the perils of dining with three children age 4 and under: The Benefits of Eating Together from the blog Jumping Monkeys.

Thanks to morguefile.com and photographer cohdra for this photo.

5 Responses to “Happy (I Hope) National Eat Dinner Together Week! (September 16-22, 2007)”

  1. Andamom says:

    We eat dinner together almost every night without fail. Dinner is the point in the day wherein we can chat about the day’s events, try new foods, and laugh — TOGETHER. I wrote a post about dinner a few months ago because I also value it so much as well: http://andamom.com/?p=18

  2. Jenny says:

    We eat dinner together every night, although as you said, it’s easy when your kids are small. In between reminders to stop slurping her milk and eat with her spoon/ fork, I’m trying to encourage CJ to get into the habit of telling her dad what we did all day. As her concept of time is still developing, it can be quite entertaining when she brings up something we did six months ago! Seriously, I hope it’s something we continue to do for many years to come.

  3. CelticMommy says:

    Excellent blog! This is one of the main reasons we were so excited when construction was done on our dining room… so many people didn’t understand that we wanted to sit at a TABLE in front of EACH OTHER and talk about our day (rather than sit on the couch with a TV tray and the boob tube and not even look or talk to one another). We put on soft music and eat… well, it’s more like an even in the subtle art of avoiding food thrown on the walls and floors. Our 3 year old feeds himself and the 1 year old has fun being an airplane hangar. We talk about any and everything and then calm down together… usually a walk around the neighborhood or playing in the back yard if possible. I want to continure this when they’re older and make family time a priority just as music or sports might be.

  4. Mama's Moon says:

    Great research on the links, there! Thanks for the shout-out. I’m glad you stopped by! In living with my parents these last few months it’s even more of a struggle to emphasize the importance of time together at the table because my parents feel the need to have the tube on while eating. It drives me bonkers that they’re shoveling food into their mouths as their eyes are glued to the telly instead of finding out about each other’s day. Aaaarrgh!

  5. amanda says:

    Interesting post. I love your blog :)

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