Families that eat together benefit greatly

Dr. David L. Chancey's picture

I guess I missed it. National Eat Together Week, a promotion that encourages families having meals together, was held Sept. 20-26. I grew up eating supper together as a family. I thought everybody did. That time was a highlight of the day, and a great time of building memories.

Yet in this day of fast-paced, overcommitted families, eating together appears to be the exception rather than the standard. One recent statistic indicated the average American family eats less than two meals together per week. Another study indicated families eat together more often than that, but the point is the family that eats together bonds together.

A regular family meal time contributes greatly to building a strong, healthy family. A prioritized, protected time of sitting down and eating as a family can build a sense of community and tradition as individuals share about their day, laugh freely, and enjoy family fellowship. It’s also a good teaching time.

Gary Chapman in The Five Signs of a Loving Family wrote, “Karolyn and I were committed to maintaining the tradition of an evening meal together and we chose to use this as a time for instruction. It was a time for talking, a time for being family, a time for listening. There was time to develop the sense of family and to establish the reality that family is always interested in the events of the day, the thoughts of the mind, and the decisions for the future.”

Families that do eat together not only enjoy the benefit of communication, but also of better school performance. According to a Washington University study, family meals appear to give children an edge in the classroom.

In a 1994 Louis Harris and Associates survey of 2000 high school seniors, students took a test to measure their academic ability and answered a list of personal questions. Students who regularly ate dinner with their families four or more times a week scored better than those who ate family dinners three or fewer times a week.

The study also showed that well-adjusted adolescents and frequent family meals are linked. In a 1997 survey of 527 teens, the teens who were best adjusted ate a meal with an adult in their family an average of 5.4 days a week, compared to 3.3 days for teens who didn’t show good adjustment.

The well-adjusted teens were less likely to do drugs or be depressed and were more motivated at school, while less-adjusted teens were more likely to be involved with drugs, be depressed, exhibit difficulty getting along with others and have trouble in school.

Some of our greatest family moments are created at mealtime. I’ll never forget the moment our daughter-who-shall-remain nameless was busted as a young preschooler. Night after night my wife had commended her for eating her vegetables. She held her up as an example to her other sisters.

Then my wife happened to look under the table, and discovered a hefty stash of dried up English peas, green beans, and corn kernels lined up on a support piece, right at this daughter’s place. She never has been into vegetables.

As the kids got older, I often read a short Bible portion and devotional thought before we scattered at the end of the meal. One night, I kept getting interrupted by the phone. In the days before caller ID, I refused to answer the phone at meal time, but everyone would wonder who it was and if the call was for them. I finally got through the devotional, and was about to read from Proverbs when the phone rang again.

When I finally returned to Proverbs 1:28, the verse read, “Then they will call on me, but I will not answer.” Maybe you had to be there, but it was a humorous mealtime moment that we’ve never forgotten.

Coordinating schedules to prioritize family meal time takes work, but it’s worth the effort.

Dr. David L. Chancey is pastor, McDonough Road Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Georgia. The church family gathers at 352 McDonough Road and invites you to join them this Sunday for Bible study at 9:45 a.m. and worship at 10:55 a.m.

login to post comments | Dr. David L. Chancey's blog