I grew up in a home that was broken. My parents split up when I was 7 and it had a devastating blow on me as a young boy. In particular, one result was that it significantly decreased the amount of time that I had together with my family. We had our moments when we would all be together, but I remember far more occasions when we were off in our own directions. Looking back, I realize that it could have been far worse than it was. But still, it wasn’t ideal. There simply wasn’t enough time that we sat together as a family to enjoy and benefit from the offerings of a healthy family.
Now that I’m married with four kids of our own, we strive to make the time where we as a family can sit and just be together. The place this happens most is around our kitchen table. Like most families, we have our evenings along the way where we must eat out or apart from each other. But we do try to avoid that as much as possible.
Statistically, it is easy to find support for a family mealtime. But those of us who grew up without it honestly don’t need statistics. In my opinion, there are several obvious reasons why a family mealtime should be a high priority for our families.
- It establishes and reinforces unity. Time together around a table each day gives your children a treasure trove full of memories with their family. This creates a unity and a love with the family that is important to us all.
- It provides safety. Regular time together at the table reminds your child that there is always someone there who loves them and is willing to invest in them. This brings assurance to their hearts and minds that makes them feel safe.
- It lends encouragement. Regularly around our table, someone will have had a bad day, tough experience, or moment of discouragement. As we sit together, the entire family can chime in to talk about it and offer words of encouragement, a word of wisdom, or a listening ear. The end result is the same each time: the discouraged child is now encouraged and we can move forward.
- It fosters communication. We also have times around the table where tensions arise and must be addressed. The family table is, in our family at least, a safe place to have those conversations. Without knowing it, our kids are learning how to communicate about the fun things and the difficult things.
- It promotes laughter. Boy do we laugh together at the table! There are countless things that make us laugh and we embrace them all. Laughter is good for the soul, but it is even better when it comes from those that you love the most. The dinner table makes this happen on a regular basis.
- It gives an opportunity to teach and disciple. Some of the best spiritual and life conversations we have been able to have with our kids happen at the dinner table. When they feel safe, loved, and welcomed, its amazing how children open up and talk to you about all sorts of things. Our family mealtime has been a goldmine of these opportunities.
- It encourages community. God made us to live in community, yet if we aren’t careful, we can allow so many other things to pull us in separate ways. The table brings us all back together and reminds us that we need each other and that we are made for each other. It is practice for their future lives, with their own church and family.
- It allows for accountability. Sometimes we have to have serious talks with our kids about behavioral or heart issues. If there is an issue that we want to talk about with all of the kids, a meal time is a time when this can happen.
- It teaches hospitality. We’ve also found that a family meal is also a perfect time to teach our kids how to serve each other. We try to avoid doing all the work by ourselves. We call upon our kids to help set the table, put ice in glasses, clear the plates, etc. In the end, they are learning to serve.
- It shows the importance of prayer. And most of all, in the midst of so much busyness, a family mealtime gives at least one regular time for our family to pray together. Of course we look for other opportunities, but we always know that at least this one will be there.
There’s much more that could be said about a family mealtime. But, for now I leave you with the above reasons. I pray for you as you look for ways to pour into your kids!