A couple weeks ago I observed a family eating dinner at a restaurant. All five of them had their heads down and focused on their mobile devices. As I watched, for quite some time, not one of them said a word to each other, and only occasionally would one of them look up to see if the others were still there and then dive back down into their device.
Recently I got an email from a media organization about something they are calling the #DeviceFreeDinner Challenge. I clicked on the link and it took me to a great website with some wonderful resources. I decided it would be good idea to write about the family dinner.
If I told you as parents that I could give you a tip that would increase the academic scores of your child, reduce behavioral problems, lower the risk of substance abuse in your kids, and make them healthier you would probably be begging me for that tip. Well it’s pretty simple. Having a consistent family dinner together does all of these things. This has been written about in a number of books and magazines and verified by a number of scientific studies including one by Harvard.
So how do we do this thing called a “family dinner?” It may seem like an obvious statement but the first step is to make sure that you are consistently having dinner together as a family. That actually is a little harder said than done. In today’s crazy world with so much activity, responsibilities, work functions, etc., many families are not eating dinner together very often. This is especially true when the kids get older, are a little bit more independent, and involved in more activities. It does not have to be every night, but parents need to prioritize dinner and figure out a way to make it something that is happening consistently in their house.
Secondly, in today’s world, dinner needs to be device free. This is where the challenge comes in. Fortunately, if you take the #DeviceFreeDinner Challenge, they will send you a free starter kit with information on how to make this happen in your house. The ironic thing is that for some of us, putting down the device, could actually be harder for us than our kids.
I also found an organization and website that is dedicated simply to the idea of family dinners. The site has a ton of resources available to help make family dinners better. One of the best things they offer is a page full of conversation starters to get your kids talking. These are especially helpful with teenagers who are willing to sit there and not say a word all dinner long, especially if they are sulking about having to put their device away. I would strongly encourage you to visit their website to learn more.
There is a reason it is called a “challenge” and it will take some work and possibly difficult steps but the rewards can and will be worth it.
Day 14 of 30