Friday, May 15, 2009

Dinner Table Bonding?

Eating supper together is a ritual at my house. 
Before my son was born, my husband and I lingered over dinner, chatting about politics, work, books. Post-baby, the evening meal became a race to see if we could stuff down our food before all hell broke loose.
But babies grow up. Somewhere in the toddler years mealtime evolved from NATO-style negotiations over what our son would -- and would not -- eat, to the enjoyable routine I had remembered.
So I was interested in the findings of a recent study by Child Trends called the Strengths of Poor Families. It discovered that 63 percent of families living below the poverty level ate together six or more days a week. Only 47% of richer families did that. 
(It wasn't all good news, of course. Poor kids were less likely to have health and dental insurance and their parents read to them less.)
Here's a good reason to make it a priority: teens from families who eat together are less likely to use alcohol, marijuana or tobacco, get suspended from school or end up in big trouble, the study says.
What is it about higher incomes that makes families more likely to skip meals together? Do ballet lessons and soccer and swimming classes take the place of the dinner table? Are parents stuck late at the office earning those extra bucks? Or at the gym working off the stress?
Food for thought.
(Photo: by Edenpictures)

1 comment:

  1. Love this post. My husband and I are huge believers in family meals, particularly dinner. In my growing up years (the dark ages of the sixties, primarily)most of the families I knew ate dinner at the table. In fact, I can't think of a single family that didn't eat together in the evening. Kids were not heavily scheduled and the only thing to do after school was play outside, read, or maybe do homework (said 'maybe' being self-reflexive, ahem.)There were no video games and not much TV, other than Merv Griffin and As the World Turns.

    For a while during my childrearing years, we started to fall into the habit of everyone eating on their own, doing their own thing, partly because my first husband was never home at mealtimes (never home much period) and I was exhausted from taking care of my four sons almost single-handedly. I would do that much differently if I could. When I remarried years later, family mealtime became sacred; my boys and stepdaughter are all wonderfully intelligent and verbose people and I think it is partly because they were exposed to kind, intelligent, and pleasant conversation around the table.