Why Family Dinners Are Important for Your Child's Development

In an ideal world, your family comes together each night to sit, eat, laugh and share stories about the day as it draws to a close. You might picture smiling faces chatting over a healthy meal as a father scoops homemade mashed potatoes onto the plate of a not-fidgeting toddler and a teenager actually helps himself to some vegetables.

Okay, so maybe that's a bit of an idealistic stretch. It seems that for most families these days, the dinnertime gathering, when it does, in fact, occur, is more of a quick, 20-minute stint over take-out Chinese. All the while, phones ring, homework beckons, and siblings fight about who gets to eat the last fortune cookie. But regardless of the time allotted or the fare upon which you feast, some families still feel it's important to make dinner a family affair.

Parent Soup, a leading parenting site on the Web and America Online recently asked its users how often their family eats dinner together. Turns out 51 percent of those polled say their family has dinner together seven nights a week, no excuses. About 34 percent find the time at least to eat together three to five times a week. The remaining respondents' answers ranged from the 6 percent who squeeze in a family dinner at least twice a week to the 2 percent who almost never eat together. Here's some food for thought from three Parent Soupers.

"We find the time three to five nights per week," said Missfalcin. "I think it's important that we spend that time together as a family. But on the other hand, my husband and I usually reserve a couple of nights for a late dinner after the kids are in bed. That way, we can share time alone, enjoy drinks with dinner -- which we don't have when we eat with them -- and some adult conversation. The kids usually get peanut butter sandwiches or French toast those nights -- which they would rather have anyway."


IVillager iamlilith has a different take on family time: "We eat together when we can squeeze it in. My son and I don't view mealtime as 'family time.' Instead, his bedtime ritual becomes the quality time we spend together each day. That's when we share our thoughts and feelings about the day, cuddle up with a story, play a game, whatever. Mealtimes are usually filled with, 'one more bite please,' 'don't spin your fork around on the table' or 'that's not good manners.' I don't believe it matters when you connect throughout the day, just as long as you find the time to do so at some point."

Jkuhnke believes the dinnertime ritual is a matter of tradition. "My family tends to eat together every night. But of course there are exceptions. For us, it's a good time to hear about one another's day and decide what we would like to do together after dinner. I suppose I feel it's important because that is the way that I was raised. We had dinner together every night when I was a kid, so it's normal for me to do the same with my children."

from the Parents of Parent Soup
Excerpt from the Copley News Service

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