You may or may not have realized it, but a holiday week began yesterday. No, not the official start of Autumn (that's tomorrow). Any other guesses? It isn't a holiday that would be listed on a traditional calendar, either, so this might be a tall order.
Yesterday began National Eat Together Week, a week dedicated to encouraging families to take time to share a meal once a day together...eating all at once...at a table...without any distractions.
Why my interest in encouraging others to eat together? Is it the fact that National Eat Together Week is sponsored by the National Pork Board and I just love bacon *that* much? Heck, no. Is it the fact that I have an idyllic home in which all meals are smiling, peaceful, happy occasions in which we all leisurely eat and share? Wrong again.
My interest stems from the fact that I have read time and time again that the simple act of coming together, for a meal as a family, be it two family members or loads more, is a powerful and effective way to be involved in your child's life.
I recently read in Penzey's Spices Magazine an interview with Elizabeth Planet, Director of Special Projects for Columbia University's National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, "we've found there's a very linear connection between parental engagement, more frequent dinners and less substance abuse by kids." Ms. Planet goes on: "kids get better grades...and (are) more likely to have positive feelings about themselves."
Perhaps this is the most important fact to glean from Planet's research: "It's not about the content of the dinner. It's all about conversation at the table, it's about talking. Kids need to know that their parents are available to them."
It makes sense doesn't it? As our lives get busier and busier, I know regular meals together as a family can sometimes seem like a pipe dream. But I also have witnessed first hand what can happen when we sloooow down and relax our pace, cut out distractions and simply share a meal as a family.
So what's a stressed and busy family to do? Here are a couple of ideas:
1. Schedule family dinners on your calendar, blackberry or family schedule. Treat the dinner as you would any other essential meeting.
2. In choosing activities and other meetings for your child's schedule, be deliberate about trying to preserve time or "holes" in the schedule to facilitate family meals.
3. Be flexible. Whether you are a 5:30 diner or a later in the evening meal eater, aligning everyone's schedule may necessitate a good degree of flexibility.
4. Be realistic. During certain seasons of the year, family dinners might not be feasible due to certain prior commitments. Perhaps a breakfast would work better, or even an occasional lunch.
Lastly, I like the quote above, "It's not about the content of the dinner.." Phew. That is a load off of this busy mom's mind. There's nothing to say a good ole PB&J cannot spur the same good effects as a more elaborate meal.
So, start your celebration of this week and schedule some good family meals.