Must it be this difficult? Some families rush to eat dinner before their children leave for various functions and appointments, while others eat while the children are at sports practices. Some resort to making calendars so that a dinner, with everyone present, can be coordinated.
After decades of decline in the simple ritual of family dinners, there is evidence that many families are making the effort to gather at the dinner table. A random nationwide survey by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University found a recent rise in the number of children ages 12 to 17 who said they ate dinner with their families at least five times a week, to 58 percent last year from 47 percent in 1998.
Getting everyone around the table can be a huge juggling exercise for overworked parents and overscheduled children. But many parents are marshaling their best
organizational skills to arrange dinners at least once a week.
"There's definitely an awareness that was not there a few years ago," said Miriam Weinstein, author of "The Surprising Power of Family Meals: How Eating Together Makes Us Smarter, Stronger, Healthier and Happier" (Steer Forth Press, 2005). "All the factors that have been working against family dinners are still in full force, but it's very much a subject on people's minds." (NY Times)
Families are way too busy if they can only meet up once a week for dinner. How involved should the kids be with other projects? I realize that I'm saying this as a father of a six-year-old and an eighteen-month-old, whose kids are not yet involved in sports, clubs, and various meetings. His kids aren't old enough - he is so naive - they'll become involved in extra-curricular activities and he'll be like every other parent. Do I have to let this happen though? Do I have to allow my girls to become so involved in other things that they have to schedule time to eat with Mom & Dad?
When it comes to the benefits of eating together as a family, the statistics are impressive:
The benefits of family dinners have been heralded for years by social scientists. A number of studies show that children who eat dinner with their families regularly are less likely to get involved with drugs and alcohol than those who do not. They also tend to get better grades, exhibit less stress and eat better.
The study by the Columbia center showed that compared with teenagers who have five or more family dinners a week, those who have two or less are three times as likely to try marijuana, two and half times as likely to smoke cigarettes and one and half times as likely to try alcohol.