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Preserve family dinners
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Forsyth County News

Eating dinner as a family is fast becoming a lost tradition.

I am on a crusade to bring back this all-important component of healthy families.

I understand families today are busier than ever. More often than not, both parents work outside the home.

In addition, children in today’s culture are involved in a myriad activities — soccer, tennis, Scouts, football, baseball, cheerleading, just to name a few.

Couple those facts together, and it is easy to see why carving out an hour or two at dinnertime may seem impossible.

Let me offer some reasons why eating together as a family is so important.

From a statistical perspective, many studies have shown that families who eat dinner together three or four nights a week have children who are less likely to do drugs or have premarital sex. These children are also more likely to do well in school.

That’s not to say, however, that just because you eat dinner together your children will be perfect or immune to unsavory activities.

But as a parent of four children, anything I can do to help my family be successful is worth a try.

By eating dinner together, there is a sort of "check-in" that occurs between children and their parents. This gives children a secure feeling of belonging.

Because I love to cook so much, I often feel as if my children were raised in the kitchen. But we do so much more than eat there.

The children have grown up finishing homework at the kitchen table, doing projects, cooking, socializing, watching my tiny under-the-counter TV and, of course, eating.

When our children were quite young, dinner was mostly an exhausting time as we tried to teach them table manners, keep the cranky ones from falling apart, and not give up on the experience in general.

Many nights I wondered if it was even worth it. There would be complaints about one child not liking corn, or another one kicking someone else under the table.

There would be back talk about this or that. The baby would throw his entire plate on the floor, causing other children to laugh, causing the baby to continue doing that over and over.

I can chuckle about these memories now, but at the time they were anything but funny. Still, I continued to aim for peaceful family dinners.

When our family was at its height of afternoon and evening activities, it definitely took a lot of planning on my part to keep up our dinner ritual. After all, I think we all know if family dinner is going to happen, it’s up to the mom.

When our lives were crazy and I felt like I was a taxi driver for our children, I mapped out family dinners while doing weekly menu planning.

On nights when I knew we wouldn’t be getting home until it was too late to cook a meal, I threw dinner into the slow cooker that morning.

Even if we only sat down for a quick meal before everybody had to scatter to shower and do homework, at least there was that daily connection.

I also know families who, because of their schedules, would eat their family meal at breakfast.

Since I am the only morning person in our family, that would definitely not work for us.

Some weeks, family dinners were possible on only a few nights. But a few times a week is still a worthy goal.

The main point is, if it’s important to you to find that family bonding time, you can make it happen.

Some of my fondest memories are of our family dinner conversations.

Even when arguments erupt, there is such value to being together and sharing opinions, views and ideas.

We talk about food, politics, music, school, the culture, pets and, most importantly, our memories of times together.

I hope our children grow up and continue this seemingly dying tradition of breaking bread with family after a long day.

To my readers with young children, please know your efforts to make regular family dinners a priority are worth it — even when the baby throws his plate on the floor.

 

Adlen Robinson is author of "Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home." E-mail her at contact@adlenrobinson.com.