The smell of bacon frying never fails to remind me of Saturday mornings My mom, Dad and I could put away a pound of bacon between the three of us – along with either the plate-sized pancakes she used to make or his incredible omelets.
Though rare in Texas, a good snow always reminds me of the several days my family and I were snowed in during my senior year of high school. We pulled out every board game in the house – my dad was a nightmare when playing Monopoly, but nobody could touch me at Clue. In my mind, I still see it as the brightly painted deli that we’d visit on Monday nights, when my mom was off work. A roll of quarters and some Pac-Man or Centipede made for a fantastic family night.
I want my kids to have those kinds of memories. I want them to sit around the Thanksgiving table with their spouses, laughing as they replay the memories of their childhoods. What will their memories be?
If I had to hazard a guess, I think they might include things like roasting marshmallows for s’mores over a front-yard campfire. Yes, we live in a subdivision. Maybe the neighbors think we’re crazy, but that’s okay.
Maybe their memories will include “camping out” in the living room on Friday nights or playing Aggravation or Uno Attack while eating popcorn and peanut butter balls. Their memories may include the big things, like family vacations, or the small ones, like family dinners or our own Saturday morning breakfast ritual.
Whatever my kids’ childhood memories turn out to be, they will be the threads that tie their bonds as siblings. They’ll be the stories they pass down to their own children until my grandchildren have heard them so many times that they can tell the tales themselves.
Make Family Dinners A Priority
I am passionate about the importance of family dinners – of meeting together every night of the week as a rule, not the exception (though they don’t often look like the one pictured…). As our kids grow up, we schedule their activities (and ours) around our dinners. As they get older and some activities are inevitably scheduled during the traditional dinner hour (around 6:00pm), we eat early or later, depending on when the activity ends.
The only time we don’t eat at a table is on Saturdays when we eat pizza and watch a classic movie (for a number of years we got every old musical we could find at our library, then we moved on to westerns, classics we loved, and even film noir as the kids get older). But that’s a fun family time, too. Are we crazy to emphasize this and to think it more than just a time to put food into our mouths? I don’t think so.
After a bit of research I found six life-changing reasons to make family dinner a priority.
Children who eat frequently (at least 5 times a week) with their families will
- Be less likely to abuse drugs, alcohol, or tobacco. According to a September 2011 study, children who ate meals less than 3 times a week were twice as likely to use tobacco, and almost four times more likelier to use tobacco and say that they expect to use drugs in the future. This article states that 90% of addicted Americans started smoking, drinking or using drugs before age 18! Staying involved, especially in the teen years, is key to raising healthy, substance-free kids- and having a family meal is one of the simplest ways to make sure that happens.
- Have better relationships their parents and siblings. Sharing thoughts, opinions, and laughter regularly at the table imparts family values and strengthens family ties. Children realize they have a voice, a place, and are important.
- Do better in school.Talking with your children- regardless of what your education or financial situation – has been shown to expand the reading ability and vocabulary of children. Wow.
- Eat healthier. Studies have linked eating family meals to the higher intake of fruits, vegetables, protein, and calcium, as well as a healthy weight. Which makes sense- it’s a lot easier to mindlessly eat alone with a TV than when engaged with our families.
- Learn table etiquette. Manners are most definitely not a thing of the past. Our children will need table manners in many adult situations (remember meeting your in-laws or eating with co-workers?) and it’s our job as parents to make sure they have the skills they need to be successful in life- and that includes at the table.
- Be happier. Seriously? Surprisingly, good self-esteem and a positive outlook on life and the future are all linked to that time-honored, easily accomplished family activity that we have taken for granted:
Need some memory-making ideas?
- Get creative together – color, paint, draw, take photos, make collages, scrapbook, sew
- Cook together – Whether it’s baking cookies or making dinner, working alongside your children in the kitchen can be some great one-on-one time.
- Be active – biking, running, flag football, tossing a baseball, family hikes, camping
- Play games – board games, card games, video games
- Read – Kids never really get too old for reading aloud.
- Take trips – family vacations, overnight excursions, a Sunday drive to a family-friendly spot
- Serve others – rake leaves, take a meal to a family in need, bake cookies for volunteer fire fighters
- Have a fight – No, not the yelling kind, but rather an epic Nerf battle, pillow fight, or flashlight war.