Family bonds are crucial to a child’s early development. The family is where children first begin to learn who they are and what their role in life will be. In the safety of the family unit, children discover how the world works and how to interact socially. They start to understand they are loved and see themselves as someone important, capable, and cared for.
"The Family is where children first begin to learn who they are and what their role in life will be."
Children absorb their family identity and carry that with them into every other context, including school. A strong identity nurtured at home can make a child more resilient when faced with challenges such as bullying and bombardment with negative cultural messages. A rich home life can make a child more thoughtful, reflective, and self-aware. Yet how do today’s busy, working parents make time for cultivating these crucial family bonds?
One simple way to ensure that time is set aside to focus on each other is to have old-fashioned family dinners several evenings a week. Dinners can be simple, inexpensive, and even prepared by your local grocery store. However you make them happen, you will see the benefits. Further practical ideas for successful family dinners will be the focus of a future blog post. For now, read on for five beautiful ways that meals together can help shape your children. Can you add more?
1. During quiet family meals, parents can model many important qualities and behaviors to their children. From loving parents, kids absorb good manners, kindness, hospitality, prayer, and mature Christian perspectives. Parents can also model how to carry on a good conversation, how to express oneself clearly, and how to consider issues thoughtfully.
2. The dinner table can become an important hub for the family, a retreat where every member has a place and a voice. School, work, friends, and entertainment might scatter or distract the family, but a regular dinnertime tradition will ensure that parents and siblings will spend a part of each day or week in one another’s company.
3. Gathering regularly over food creates opportunities for parents to stay closely connected to their children and knowledgeable about what is going on in their lives. How is school? What do your kids like and not like about their classes? Who are their friends? What are they learning at church?
4. Making time for regular dinner conversations fosters an environment of openness and communication in your home that your kids may continue to enjoy even as teenagers. That means that they will be more likely to come to you with problems. If there is a challenge or accomplishment in their lives, you may be the first to know.
5. A tradition of meals where everyone contributes to the conversation creates a strong family identity with closeness that can last for life. Reliving experiences by sharing them aloud reinforces family memories for speaker and listeners. A unique culture is formed, and deep sibling and parent connections are established. Your children know that parents and siblings will always “get” their jokes and see them for who they are with affection and care. They know that no matter what happens anywhere else, they can always be themselves at their dinner table.
Beginning a routine of dinners together at home may be awkward or difficult at first. Keep trying. A routine may take time to establish, but the benefits your children will experience are worth the effort.