Family mealtime is very important Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler   
Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018 -- 12:00 AM

Most of us want our children and grandchildren to grow up healthy in mind, body, and spirit.

But I bet many parents and grandparents aren’t aware of one of the best ways to ensure that successful development: it’s sitting down and eating meals together as a family.

Thanks to Catholic Herald correspondent Sue Barry, I read an article by Leah Davies, M.Ed.,“Is Family Mealtime Important?” from the Kelly Bear website (

Benefits of family meals

Davies’ answer is a resounding “yes.” She points out that less than half of families in the United States actually sit down to a meal on a regular basis. Yet, studies report that family meals are strongly related to the development of adolescent mental health and stability.

She notes that a Harvard Medical School study that there are nutritional, as well as social, emotional, and academic advantages that occur in children when families share meals together. I would add spiritual advantages to that list, too.

My husband John and I have always emphasized eating meals together with our children and grandchildren. In fact, when our grandchildren were still eating in high chairs, we always included them around the table.

My husband and I like to have a little social time before we eat dinner, even to this day. We enjoy a drink (not always alcoholic) with hors d’oeuves and talk about our day. Our children and now our grandchildren like that social time, too. They will even get out the cocktail plates, napkins, and snacks (they especially like our homemade dill dip to use with chips and veggies).

Even when our kids were busy with sports and other after-school activities, we would wait until they could join us to eat dinner together. We turned off the TV and later cell phones, so we could concentrate on talking.

How to improve mealtime

Davies’ article points out that if families are too busy to have family meals, they may be too busy! She suggests families plan ahead, think creatively, and make adjustments to fit their family’s schedule. She suggests having meals without television and limiting other distractions.

I liked her idea to involve the children in planning, preparing, and serving the meals (and I would add cleaning up after the meal).

Another good idea is to create a special atmosphere by playing soft music, lighting candles, or using flowers.

“Teach by showing, not by telling,” advises Davies. “When you make pleasant family mealtimes a priority, your child or children will more likely be healthy, well-mannered, and well-adjusted.”

Why not start this week? It might be especially appropriate during the Advent season, when you could use an Advent wreath and light candles while saying a brief prayer before dinner.