Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of Family Day – a Day to Eat Dinner With Your Children. This “holiday” (or movement, perhaps?) was created by CASA, The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, because its studies show that the more often children eat with their families, the less likely they are to smoke, drink, or use drugs. Family dinners also have a direct impact on positive self-image, higher grades and parent-child communication. So CASA created a holiday to encourage people to eat family dinners. Did you celebrate it by sitting down to dinner with your family?
It makes me sad that we need a holiday for this. Sad that we need need an annual reminder to sit down at the table together and share a meal and talk about our day. But since we apparently do need that reminder, I’m grateful that CASA has stepped up to provide it and that other companies who believe in the power of a family dinner have joined them to sponsor and publicize it.
As one example, Stouffer’s has partnered with Todd Parr, a children’s author who has penned a new book called “Let’s Fix Dinner” in celebration of this day. It’s available for a limited time through the link I included here. (I just ordered mine!) Incidentally, Todd Parr also wrote “This is My Hair,” one of my daughter’s most favorite books when she was a toddler…love love love that silly book.)
I am a big believer in the importance of family dinners. My own family sat down to a meal together every night growing up, as did my husband’s family. Our growing family eats together every night now unless my husband is traveling for work. Sometimes that means we eat early or late to accommodate our schedules…but we do it. We all look forward to that symbolic point in our day when we come together from our disparate activities – work, preschool, tumbling, kindergarten, errands, exercise, whatever – and reconnect in one place, at one time, around one table as a family. I’m frankly a little anxious about how our ritual may need to adjust as our children grow older and begin to participate in activities that cut into the family dinner hour. My hope is that we’ll be so attached to this family tradition that we’ll do whatever we can to preserve it, as often as we possibly can.
Since I love to cook, these family dinners provide an opportunity to put home-cooked food on the table, but the data from CASA suggests that it’s not so much the food that matters. It’s the ritual. The connection. The conversation that unfolds. So please don’t pressure yourself to prepare a homemade feast if you can’t see your way there. Simply put food on the table and eat. Pick up takeout if that’s what works. Just eat. Together. You’ll be glad you did.
If you’re already having family meals, will you write a comment below this post and share why they’re important to you or how you make them fit into your schedule? And if you’re not having them as often as you’d like, can you try to have one family meal a week and let that be your ritual? It could be Sunday breakfast or Friday dinner or whatever works for your family. Just do what you can; you’ll create an opportunity for your children to open up and share about their day and for you to make memories you’ll always cherish. If the toddler runs laps around the table while everyone eats, so be it. If your teenager doesn’t talk at all, so be it. Do it anyhow. Routinely. And let the ritual do its work.
Perhaps if we all commit to eating as families as often as we can, we won’t need an annual holiday to remind us of why these dinners matter. We’ll be celebrating them all year.