How eating together as a family pays lifetime dividends

It's no wonder so many people don't even try to eat together.

Ask busy parents you know and you'll likely hear something like this: "It's too hard to get everyone together--and keep them there. (Sigh.) Our lives are so busy that eating on the run is way easier."

Blog. Family eating together. 1.12 (2)Yet eating together is way more than sitting at a table and consuming food. Sharing a family meal symbolizes what we all long for, a deeper connection with those we love.

Sure, it's quicker to stop for fast food or hit the drive-through. Lots of us eat in our cars. Some of us eat takeout in front of our laptop or TV. In a multitasking life it seems, well, natural. Besides, at the end of a hectic day who wants to cook and clean up? After all, this is 2023.

Look from a different angle. We save time, yes, but we may lose what matters more.

For once, TV models the good stuff

I'm a longtime fan of the long-running hit TV show, "Blue Bloods" and I've always thought the best part of each episode is when their family comes together for Sunday dinner. Some years ago writer David Hitbrand looked into what attracts this show's consistently large audience. Here are a couple of quotes:  

The sentimental majority opinion holds that it's the show's weekly dinner scene, during which four generations of Reagans -- presided over by the patriarch (Len Cariou) -- bicker, spar and celebrate one another.

"That scene is the favorite of so many people," says "Blue Bloods" executive producer, Leonard Goldberg. "Italian people, Jewish people, Greek people -- they all say the same thing: 'That's my family.' "

Perhaps that's because the Reagans do more than eat together

As they prepare the meal and work together, then sit down at their huge dining table, they depict a healthy family in action.

  • They do a lot of one-on-one sharing in the kitchen.
  • They begin their meals with thanking God for their food and often, for each other.
  • They do "celebrate" each other. For any child or adult, there's something really sweet about having another family member praise us in front of the rest.
  • They talk and listen to each other with respect, even when they disagree. Younger family members participate, too. Sometimes an adult corrects a youngster or offers a principle to remember.
  • They leave the table reminded they are family, they are one.

Families are like branches on a tree. We grow in different directions yet our roots remain as one.  --Anon

Building family bonds in our own homes

I know a couple that early on resolved to eat their evening meal together. They had to work around a crazy schedule, but were committed to staying tuned-in to how their children viewed their world. (You may be thinking, Aren't we all?)

Once they had talked it through they kicked off sharing daily "highs" and "lows" over dinner, not at all sure how it would come out. The basic premise was that each family member would name their best and worst points of the day--in as much detail as they liked. Mom and Dad spoke their joys and concerns, too--with discretion.

These normal children sometimes protested and could be moody or quiet. "Some nights they'd say, 'recess' for both their high and their low," the father says with a smile. "We never tried to talk them out of it because they lived their day at school, not us.

"We learned to listen with more sensitive ears and not jump in right away with advice or admonishment. Often it seemed nothing happened, but over time those highs and lows proved a wonderful tool. The proof of that is that when our children grew into adolescence they took over reminding us anytime we forgot to build in highs and lows. Now any time they come home on vacation they insist we get right back into it over dinner. 

"Over the years our conversations became more meaningful and so did our prayers. Without question this daily sharing strengthened the love and closeness within our family."

No skills training needed

Just start--and be patient with yourselves. Aim to gather everyone around for one meal of every day, whichever works best for you. Keep it fancy or plain, serve sandwiches or steak, your choice--and yes, takeout or DoorDash is okay. Whatever works best for your family.

It helps to remember the goal is simply to establish a routine that helps draw your family closer. The resulting sense of connectedness can melt away a lot of strain.

(By the way, it works well for wives and husbands, too.)

Let love be your motivation and count on the love of God to make it grow. It's as the Apostle Paul wrote to his friends:

May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.1 Thessalonians 3:12-13  NIV

Or take Mother Teresa to heart: 

"What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family."

Blessings to you,


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