Childrearing

Mommyish Poll: Do You Eat Dinner Together As A Family?

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Today is Family Day, a day where you’re supposed to eat dinner with your children. The campaign was launched by Columbia University as a way to teach parents how to help keep their kids off of drugs.

When I was growing up, I ate every dinner with my family. Even though my dad, a pastor, frequently had services, meetings or counseling sessions at night, we still ate together as a family. That means that the dinners were sometimes quite rushed. But I remember it being a big deal that even if we had theater or athletic practice, we had to be home for dinner. That’s just the way it was. And my family communicates well together to this day.

My husband, on the other hand, rarely ate dinner with his family. His sisters are significantly older than he is and his parents had them after they’d already raised their other kids, more or less. By the time he hit junior high school, they encouraged him to prepare his own meal.

When we got married, we began eating together as a family and once we started having children, we committed to that all the more. This was hard during the early years when we literally didn’t have a dining room table. But we eventually got one and it is well used.

I’m a big fan of the practice of eating together. Our kids are too young for this practice to be about keeping them off the sauce right now but I do think they have much better dining habits than many of their peers. They’re not perfect, but they can eat a meal with adults and not be too much of a nuisance. I like that. For another, we get to talk about our days and check in with each other. The kids learn how to tell stories or interject into a conversation. These are all good skills. Finally, by eating together, we all eat better. I make a meal that we can all have — I’m no short order cook — and we all eat whatever we’re given. They have yet to hit the stage where they think it’s permissible to not like vegetables or be too finicky. We’re seeing how long we can keep that at bay.

No matter what, though, I’m a stickler about dining together and I think this will be even more important as the kids get older. Not terribly many of my friends eat dinner with their children, though. The kids might even eat and be in bed before one of the spouses gets home at night. For them, it’s an impossibility.

The group that came up with Family Day — The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University — explains its rationale:

Whether you’re cooking a gourmet meal, ordering food from your favorite take-out place or eating on the go, rest assured that what your kids really want during dinnertime is YOU! Family meals are the perfect time to talk to your kids and to listen to what’s on their mind. The more often kids eat dinner with their families, the less likely they are to smoke, drink or use drugs.

So how about your family? Do you eat dinner together?

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