The importance of family meals: Eating together can do much to enhance family life Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler   
Thursday, Sep. 22, 2011 -- 12:00 AM

When I was growing up, our family ate all of our meals together at home. This included breakfast, lunch, and supper. We sat around our kitchen table, often lingering to talk after the food was gone.

Editor's View by Mary C. UhlerMealtime became an opportunity to share our plans for the day, to find out what we thought about the day’s news, and even to debate various issues. My parents always encouraged open discussion, even on such topics as politics and religion.

With our own children, my husband and I also encouraged shared meal times. We almost always ate dinner together, even delaying the meal for sports and after-school activities so that we could sit down and share a meal.

I think our children — now grown with children of their own — enjoyed those times to eat and talk with each other. Now we like getting together with our extended families for meals. Even the grandchildren from babies and up are brought to the table when possible to join with the family for hors d’oeuvres and the meal.

Eating together makes a difference

It’s sad to hear that many families today do not eat together. That’s why it was necessary to set aside a day to remind families to eat together. This year’s “Family Day — A Day to Eat Dinner with Your Children” will be held on Monday, Sept. 26.

Family Day is a national movement that reminds parents that dinner makes a difference. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University launched Family Day in 2001. It grew out of research which consistently found that the more often kids eat dinner with their families, the less likely are they to smoke, drink, or use drugs. Those kids are also more likely to get better grades in school and have an excellent relationship with their parents.

Many Catholic archdioceses and dioceses are promoting Family Day. Andy Galvin, coordinator of marriage preparation in the Diocese of Madison, is encouraging families to support this initiative.

Celebrating Family Day

Families can get ideas on celebrating Family Day by going to the Web site,

A message to parents on the Web site says, “Whether you’re cooking a gourmet meal, ordering food from your favorite take-out place, or eating on the go, rest assured that what your kids really want during dinnertime is YOU! Family meals are the perfect time to talk to your kids and to listen to what’s on their mind.”

There is also a Family Dinner Kit with a template for a placemat, an activity mat,  family fun stories, recipes, meal planners, and games for families to enjoy. Lots of fun stuff!

Secrets to successful family dinners

The Web site also includes seven secrets to successful family dinners which I heartily endorse:

1. Start the pattern of family dinners when children are young.

2. Encourage your children to create menu ideas and participate in meal preparation.

3. Turn off the TV and let your answering machine answer calls during dinnertime.

4. Talk about what happened in everyone’s day: school, work, extracurricular activities, or current events.

5. Establish a routine to start and end each meal.  Light candles or tell a story.

6. After dinner play a board game or serve dessert to encourage the family to continue the conversation.

7. Keep conversation positive and make sure everyone gets a chance to speak.

I encourage all families to consider eating together on Monday, Sept. 26. Perhaps it could be the start of a new pattern of family meals eaten together as often as possible. I can guarantee it will enhance your family life.