We all know the benefits of family dinners— less picky eating, lower risk of obesity and eating disorders, higher academic achievement, lower risk of teen pregnancy and substance abuse, the list goes on and on. And we all have that idyllic idea of what it should look like—perfect table manners, no tension, everyone together, beautifully prepared meals.
The reality, though, can be very different. People can feel frantic, tired, and stressed. Family members can arrive late. Someone refuses to eat the meal in front of him or her. The presentation of the meal is haphazard. Or family dinners just aren’t even happening.
The truth is that family dinners can be a challenge, but they are a challenge worth having.
From my own childhood I have memories of long family dinners with wonderful food and tons of laughter from a seemingly endless stream of puns (yes, I come from a very verbal family), but I also have memories of tears, slamming doors, and meals I found unappetizing. The truth is, that is what family dinners are. They are a chance for us to be our best selves and our worst selves. It is an opportunity for everyone in the family to be themselves as they are in that moment, and to still be loved at the end of it.
A lot of my clients feel really guilty about what their family dinners looks like. People stressed, less-than-perfect food on the table, or not everyone eating together. And what I tell them, and myself, is that it is ok. We are doing the best we can and making due with what we’ve got.
So in an effort to help to take some of the angst out of the concept of family dinner I thought I would share what our family dinners look like at this stage in our family life….