Let’s meet at the dinner table

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What happened to the dinner table (and the breakfast table)?  This is an invaluable, central time for families to unite regularly.  The benefits are immeasurable.  As a school psychologist, I have worked with hundreds of children on an individual basis and the vast majority do not eat breakfast with their family.  Furthermore, and unfortunately, a significant number of children do not even eat breakfast, or they eat a “fast food” breakfast (a doughnut on the way out the door).  Breakfast is the time for children to talk about their upcoming day and for parents to encourage their children and get their day off on the “right track.”

The dinner table is a subtle, forgotten, and highly underestimated people skill developer.  It has been one throughout history.  The healthy families that I have worked with have dinner together on a regular basis.  Not only does it unite and bond the family, it teaches communication skills and expression of feelings.  And why is it not possible for the average American family to sit down to breakfast and dinner together?  We usually say it’s something like because we are too busy and it’s just not possible.  Why are we too busy?  It’s because we are focusing on the material things and the things not important to having a healthy family and children.  I have learned that many households are not having as their  primary focus such things as family closeness, moral development, values, getting along with others, compassion, patience, consideration, and etc.  Instead, we are focusing on our careers, money, cars, status, degrees, activities, sports, and other such material, superficial things.  As a result, the schools are expected more and more to develop and teach the things that parents are too busy, or don’t want to do.

We have gone from a family-centered society to a me-centered society.  We don’t spend much time together as a family because we’re all busy doing our thing, doing what meets our needs, and doing what we want.  Parents are busy with a career or job and any other interests, hobbies, etc. they may have, which doesn’t leave much time for the family.  The kids are in daycare and/or school and when they get home they’re in sports, on the computer, watching TV, playing video games, or talking on the phone.  When are families spending time together, interacting as a family?  Being under the same roof, inhabiting a building together, doesn’t count.

The home should be the training ground where children learn, develop, and practice the qualities, characteristics, and skills to function successfully in society (which includes school).  This requires quality-quantity time.  Having a child do chores or have responsibilities is good, and necessary, but not enough.   That does not require interaction.  Making sure your child does their homework is good, but does not necessarily require interaction.  Are you sitting down helping them?  Developing healthy family relationships requires time and interaction.  The family is the wellspring from which all other relationships in life develop.

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