(Stock photo) When you give your children your attention, see if they will not give you theirs. You have made a conscious decision to spend time with them. You have chosen them over everything else you could be doing. Your children are aware of this at an early age. They have been chosen by you and they know it.
Unexpected Benefits of Family Dinners
OCTOBER 23, 2007Craig Harris, HappyNews ColumnistYou want your children to be happy, right? I mean, do I really have to ask? And drug and alcohol abuse ravages young lives, right?So what if I told you that you could help keep them away from these addictions by doing something as simple as sitting with them at dinner a few times each week? It’s true and it’s probably the best deal you are going to encounter today.Columbia University in New York studied families who eat dinner together and found that teenagers are twice as likely to try marijuana, start smoking, or abuse alcohol if they eat dinner with their families less than three times per week. (This is why they launched Family Day on the fourth Monday in September back in 2001.)What is so magical about eating dinner together? Well, to do so properly, you have to turn off the TV and walk away from the magazines, paper, and computer. This way, you can look your children in the eyes. Then, you engage in the lives of your family. When you give your children your attention, see if they will not give you theirs. You have made a conscious decision to spend time with them. You have chosen them over everything else you could be doing. Your children are aware of this at an early age. They have been chosen by you and they know it.It is a daily decision that parents must make, and each time you choose to give your children your attention, they feel just a little more special. They know how much they really do mean to you because you have proven it once again. We usually eat during the news hour and my children know I’m an information junkie. So when I choose them over the news, I earn the right to enter their lives and become part of their decision-making. They know I sacrificed for them and that means a lot. Now, when I mention how important it is to say no to drugs – and yes to faith – I’ve earned the right to do so.The kids know they are holding their parents captive, so they can talk about anything they want. We try to keep dinner upbeat and positive, but we also remember that we are their parents and not their friends. So, we might laugh about something that happened that day one minute, then remind them of table manners the next. We have to referee sometimes, when a disagreement breaks out, but the point is, we are together, engaged in each other’s lives, and purposefully working together to make our family better.As children get older, this is going to be more and more difficult, so start when they are young and hang on to dinnertime as long as you can. If you can’t do this because of your schedule, find some time each week to give your undivided attention. That’s the point. Life is never simple and we have to work with what we’re given.Children that feel connected to their families are not looking for something else to fill that void in their lives. Their esteems are healthier, and their power to say no to peer pressure is stronger. They know that whatever they do, they are going to have to look at their parents or guardians across the dinner table.The magic of the dinner table is not in the eating of the food, it’s the time we spend making eye contact. It’s our choosing them and giving them our ears. Make the choice and see if doesn’t help them in their own decisions later.
You can contact Craig at lcraigharris.blogspot.com