Ritual helps us get more out of our time right now. Miriam Weinstein, The Surprising Power of Family Meals, 2005, p. 24Here's the chicken-or-egg issue of family dinner, the "which comes first?" question: Are families who manage to have dinner together "unusual" in their ability to pull it off ? Or does the "having dinner together" itself help a family be more connected and thus able to continue it, night after night? When I talk to people about this blog, so many respond with some variation on: "Wow, I think family dinner is important, but it's just too hard." The reasons are varied, and entirely valid: My kids are too little; there's no time; my kids are too busy with activities; we are never home at dinner time; my husband and I both work or work too late; the kids hate what we cook anyway, etc., etc. I hear these challenges loud and clear, and over my posts in the next weeks, I will rack my brain trying to address them. But I know this: family dinner is worth all the time and trouble. I hope that my friends and readers can see that making small steps towards family dinner is a worthwhile goal.
For the average family, the "which came first?" question is irrelevant. You either want "in" on the benefits of family dinner or you don't. Upon interviewing several mental health researchers, Weinstein concludes that bottom line is this:
"Are you making [family life] easier for yourself or harder for yourself? Why not structure family life so that it's likely to work better? Why not build in supports that can help [your family] every day?" Weinstein, 2005, p.47Family dinner models a well-functioning family for you and your children. It gives you a crutch. Setting aside a daily time and place for family (at dinner, when you have to eat anyway) brings consistency and structure to the day. This helps kids with resiliency, self-esteem, and best of all, it gives you all time as a family to learn about and know each other.
The Family Dinner Deconstructed: NPR 2.07.08
The Importance of Family Rituals, MN Children Youth and Families Consortium Electronic Clearinghouse.