Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Gathering Together - The Importance of Family Meals

When our children were very young, we managed to have meals together on a regular basis. As a stay at home, homeschooling mom, I was able to gather all of us together, at the very least, every evening for a family meal.

As my children have became more and more involved in their own individual activities, I have become more of a chauffeur and a spectator. As a homeschooling parent, I am thankful that this has been a gradual process. Most of their activities are scheduled around the schedules of our dominate culture. School attendance dictates when extra curricular activities happen. So as each of our children participated more, our family schedule has had to adapt and for the most part it hasn't been too difficult. The biggest challenge and the one the most significant to our family has been the loss of opportunities for family meals.

I do a lot of driving my children around. In a big city suburb, a ride to the commuter train line can save an college student a few more minutes for study. A committed athlete may have to travel further then the local park or gym for a game or practice. Thankfully, those car rides have become an opportunity to stay connected. Unfortunately, those car rides have also become snack or meal time and even more unfortunately replaced family meal time.

There has been research done on the topic of family meals. There are positive behavioral outcomes of adolescents as a result of having consistent family meal opportunities. All of the research that I have seen points to long term benefits of regular family meal time. Gathering together is a valuable family activity and in my opinion, parental responsibility. Not always easy to accomplish, but important and rewarding.

Without the benefit of reading research, I think most parents realize the value of having regular meals together with their children. Meal time offers an opportunity to reconnect after a busy day. Gathering together around a family meal table can provide nourishment physically, emotionally and spiritually. Time to talk and just be together in an familiar, supportive environment means love to us humans. We all need that to continue to function well in the world.

From garden... table.
Family meals provide an opportunity
to learn about nutrition. 

My own observational "research" is simple. When the Run-Ran family (that's us) skips family meals too often, (over the course of a week or two) my young adult children and teen begin to ask about it. They start to ask when and what's for dinner. If I get it together after those requests, announce a time and a menu, they all make the effort to be there. When schedules permit and a few of us are involved in the planning, preparing and eating of a meal the experience is even richer and more satisfying. We enjoy each other's company and stay connected, despite where each of us is participating in the big wide world.

Meals out and about together are great, too.
My husband serves up pizza during a family vacation.

Someone say "dinner?"

If you are interested in reading a bit of evidence based research on family meals check out the article on the National Institutes of Health website. Link here: PubMed article..

The PubMed article's conclusion copied here:


Results from this study suggest that regular family meals in adolescence may have a long-term protective association with the development of substance use over 5 years among females. Parents should be encouraged to establish a pattern of regular family meals, as this activity may have long lasting benefits.

Linked below; a few family mealtime table conversation and encouraging resources at Amazon:

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