What if I told you after 15 years of research they’ve discovered there is a simple family habit, that’s easy to do, which is good for the spirit, the brain and the health of all family members! Would that be of interest to you? I sure hope so! After all, as parents, isn’t the health and welfare of our family our responsibility?
What is this simple family habit? I don’t know about you but my mind goes immediately to things like family vacations… camping trips… being nice to each other… encouraging each other… forgiveness! Those are all good things to do as a family. In fact, my guess is those things would have a positive effect on the members of any family. But that’s not what I’m talking about!
Just another Christmas breakfast!
No it’s what Dr. Les and Leslie Parrott call “The Hour that Matters Most” in their book by the same title. And believe it or not the Parrotts aren’t talking about an hour reading the bible, although again that would be important. The hour that is so important is the hour we spend sharing a meal together as a family! Here are three huge payoffs to a simple, albeit sometimes complicated, task; family dinner.
- We are investing in the physical health of the family. Research shows that families that eat at home, eat more nutritiously. Fast food is so tempting in our busy lives but with a little work on meal planning and shopping, all families can have great healthy meals each night. It is a subtle way that parents communicate that they love their children and care about their health and wellness.
- We create space to help our children feel known by their parents. All kids love time when parents stop, listen and engage in their lives. They will not necessarily admit to this, but our children have a deep need to be known, not just by our Heavenly Father, but by their earthly parents as well!! We get special insight into who our children are i.e. their favorite color, friend or what they want to be when they grow up. We hear about their fears, dreams and what really excites and motivates them. It is in this place at the table, where our children begin to ask questions, express opinions and solve problems. They get to really stop and think about what they believe and why they believe it. This leads to to the last big payoff:
- Parents have a unique window to model and pass on everything from manners to values that they want their children to internalize. We get to listen deeply, ask thoughtful and relevant questions and we get to humbly and wisely stimulate great conversation and share our own beliefs. We teach how to eat a meal with a table full of people and be aware of other people feelings and emotions. Even more valuable is the character, worldview and faith talks that begin to happen organically as we continue this wonderful tradition. We have opportunity to pray for our children, to bless them and encourage them. But how do we pull this off with everyone working and so busy with their own lives?
It takes intentional planning and teamwork. If you are not eating any meals together at all, begin with 1-2 a week. Work on a menu for a month of your family’s favorite meals and the shopping list that goes with it. It is ok to make and double a favorite meal, then freeze half for another night. Try to plan a rhythm of 4 simple meals for M-Th nights. Friday is “Spoil You Rotten Day” at our house and the cook gets spoiled too because we buy pizza for dinner!! I make a pot of soup on Friday for Saturday and we have salad and bread to eat with it during the day and night. On Sunday I cook one big Sunday meal and then Sunday night is left overs or FFY(Fend for Yourself) . We have a set weekly breakfast schedule and our kids make and take their lunches to school each day.
Lastly, there are so many intangibles that family dinner encompasses…laughter, family memories that are being made, teamwork that includes helping before and after with the work of the meal, the comfort of togetherness through the storms of life and the celebrations that are shared when good things happen to name a few. There is no better deal for everyone involved as the family dinner hour.
We are challenging you to gather the members of your family and lead them into this very powerful tradition of eating together. What are some ways that you make this happen at your house? What questions do you have that, if answered, could help this become a reality in your family?