The Power of the Family Dinner Table

Setting and keeping goals is what baby steps are all about. Just one baby step helps make a routine. And when you string those baby steps altogether into one beautiful necklace and tie up the end, you have a circle. This is the cool part—the circle doesn’t end but keeps going. It shows a perpetuation of unending beauty. There is no stopping place, although you can see it where the starting and ending places are because you have tied the ends up. That’s just like our daily routines—starting and stopping places, but one continuum.

One of the most valuable baby steps in your routine is feeding your family. Once you’re ready and taken care of (showered and dressed to shoes) you can take care of your family. Notice the order this is done: taking care of yourself first is essential to being able to take care of your family. No one likes a martyr in a bathrobe with an ugly attitude!

You’ve heard me talk about the incredible value of the family dinner table for years now. You know this is my passion and mission, to see families back at the dinner table enjoying one another and reconnecting on a daily basis as much as possible. But I want to add some more “beads” to this necklace to help you grasp how much is riding on this simple piece of family furniture:

  • CASA’s 1998 Teen Survey found that teens that eat dinner with their parents twice a week or less were four times more likely to smoke cigarettes, three times more likely to smoke marijuana, and nearly twice as likely to drink as those who ate dinner with their parents six or seven times a week.
  • CASA’s 1999 Teen Survey found that teens from families that almost never eat dinner together were 72 percent likelier than the average teen to use illegal drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol, while those from families that almost always eat dinner together were 31 percent less likely than the average teen to engage in these activities.
  • Research by other organizations has shown that teens who frequently eat family dinners with their parents are less likely than other teens to have sex at young ages, get into fights or be suspended from school, and are at lower risk for thoughts of suicide. Frequent family dining is also correlated with doing well in school and developing healthy eating habits. This pattern holds true regardless of a teen’s sex, family structure, and family socioeconomic level.

CASA is the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. CASA is primarily a think tank dedicated to finding out how to prevent drug and alcohol abuse among children. Their findings prompted family day and the above-mentioned statistics. They offer way more information on their website than I have given. Google CASA to get their current information.

In tables all across America, people traditionally gather together to give thanks on Thanksgiving. This is the quintessential picture of the dinner table. I would like to remind you, however, that the dinner table is not just a gathering place for holidays.

I invite you to take this information to heart. Not to make you feel guilty. Not to promote my book or website. But to give you some important food for thought to help you understand that underneath everything that you do, someone is watching you, emulating you, and wanting more than ever, to connect with you. Your family dinner table is the starting place for making this happen. Don’t underestimate the power of dinner.

PS–You can receive delicious menus (complete with shopping lists!) delivered right to your email inbox by subscribing to Dinner Answers today!

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