Over the past couple of decades, more studies than you can count have been done to pinpoint the most crucial factors for raising emotionally strong, well-balanced kids. Almost all of them have arrived at the same conclusion: Eating together as a family is one of the most significant influences in fostering healthy child development.
A mountain of research indicates that the more families eat together the less likely a child will engage in drug use, suffer from depression, develop an eating disorder, or succumb to a host of other behavioral problems. And the positives increase as well. Frequent family mealtimes improve a child’s school performance, communication skills, and overall happiness with life.
That’s all great news, but today’s families often find it challenging to make time to eat together. Younger kids have practice, older teens have jobs after school, and parents keep busy trying to manage it all. Before long, family meals fall by the wayside.
What’s a family to do, especially when no one’s schedule is likely to lighten up anytime soon?
The starting place is to remember that family dinners aren’t really about the food. They’re a time for socializing, sharing, celebrating, and encouraging one another. When there are no smartphones buzzing or televisions squawking in the background, the dinner table can be a great place to improve the quality of family life and enhance the depth of your relationships.
With that in mind, focus on what your family can do instead of what you can’t. If you can’t cook a full dinner with all the trimmings, just make sandwiches. If dinner every night isn’t a realistic option, start with one night a week. And if evenings don’t work, try breakfast or lunchtime.
We have a lot more ideas for you on our broadcast today with popular guest Ted Cunningham. He’ll share how he and his wife, Amy, have approached their family mealtimes. They have ideas ranging from honoring one another around the dinner table to playing board games. They even offer encouragement for single moms and single dads who are carrying the load of the family on their own shoulders.
Ted is the founding pastor of Woodland Hills Family Church in Branson, Missouri. He and Amy have also written a book titled, Come to the Family Table: Slowing Down to Enjoy Food, Each Other and Jesus. We have that and a lot of other materials you’ll find helpful in our online bookstore.