Episode 1. Eat Together
There’s nothing quite like having a meal together from time to time to develop the bonds of friendship. We can meet someone at work or in passing somehow and think, ‘I really enjoy their …
There’s nothing quite like having a meal together from time to time to develop the bonds of friendship. We can meet someone at work or in passing somehow and think, ‘I really enjoy their company’ but when we have a meal together somehow that takes the relationship to a whole new level.
We’ve all had that experience, having a meal with someone takes the relationship to a whole new level. I’m not quite sure what makes this whole eating together thing so important but it is. It’s one of the primary ways that we form relationships. Perhaps it’s the fact that when we sit with someone over a meal we have time to engage them in conversation. Perhaps it’s the simple act of sharing food or perhaps it’s the fact that often times one of the parties at the table has put time and effort into preparing the meal.
Just the other night some friends of ours invited Jacqui, my wife, and me over to their place for dinner. It was a simple meal, nothing fancy you understand and for about three or four hours we enjoyed their company. Now we were already friends with this couple but somehow having that time together in their home, eating a meal that they’d prepared for us. It just deepened the bonds of friendship, it’s a very special thing and in many cultures the whole idea of a man and woman dating each other places a whole lot of emphasis on going out for meals together.
Eating meals with other people in almost every culture on the planet is an incredibly important part of building and strengthening relationships. Now we kind of already know that but just stop and think about it and talking about it that way it really drives it home doesn’t it. So why is it then that we’re seeing declining rates of families having meals together?
In the UK for instance one in ten families never sits down to an evening meal together but that same study which surveyed three thousand families revealed that two-thirds of children yearn for a return of the traditional family dinner time and four out of ten children have even asked their mother and father to have more evening meals together as a family.
A similar study was conducted in New Zealand found the majority of fifteen year olds, 64.7% reported that they shared a main meal with their parents around the table several times a week. That sounds great until you realise that 35.3% or just over a third reported that they didn’t share a main meal with their parents around a table several times a week.
The newspaper USA Today had this to say about the whole subject of family dinners.
Family dinners help kids avoid risky behaviours and may even help them in school but new research shows that the more frequent these dinners are the better the adolescents fair emotionally says new research published this week in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
‘The effect doesn’t plateau after three or four dinners a week’, says co author Frank Elgar an associate professor of psychiatry at McGill University in Montreal. ‘The more dinners a week the better’.
With each additional dinner researchers found fewer emotional and behavioural problems, greater emotional well-being, more trusting and helpful behaviours towards others and higher life satisfaction regardless of gender, age or family economics. The study was based on a nationally represented sample of twenty-six thousand and sixty-nine Canadian adolescents aged between eleven to fifteen in the year 2010.
Do we really need any more studies and statistics to tell us what we already know? Eating meals together is good for children and its good for families. Eating meals together stops people from falling apart and it stops families from falling apart and yet it’s something that in many countries we’re doing less and less of. It’s as though we’re hell-bent on destroying our families and come on our family contains the most precious people to us on this earth right?
What’s one thing, just one thing that you can do to stop your family from falling apart? Eat meals together as often as you possibly can. Not in front of the television with the television blaring, around a table talking to each other. They’re important for children, they’re especially important for teenagers and this is important for husbands and wives too.
Over the dinner table in the evening isn’t that where we check in with each other? We find out what’s been happening in each other’s day. How are the rest of your family members going? What joys and triumphs do they have today? What sadness, what disappointments? Time magazine puts it this way:
Studies show that the more often families eat together the less likely their children are to smoke, drink, do drugs, get depressed, develop eating disorders and consider suicide and the more likely they are to do well at school, delay having sex, eat their vegetables, learn big words and know which fork to use.”
If it were just about food we would squirt into their mouths with a tube’ says Robin Fox an anthropologist who teaches at Rutgers University in New Jersey about the mysterious way that family dinner engraves our souls. ‘A meal is about civilising children, it’s about teaching them to be members of our culture.”
I want to encourage you to take this one thing in your family seriously. It’s all about being a family, providing a safe place for one another, not just for the children but for the adults too. I found that our kids need us as much today, differently, as they did when they were children; they’re now in their twenties and thirties. And husbands and wives make sure that you guys have some time on a pretty regular basis too where you can have dinner just the two of you. Whether its home or you go out on a date at a nice little restaurant, it’s so important for the two of you to connect.
It seems that we’re so intent on connecting with the world on social media and email and all the other electronic gadgets that destroy our relationships that we’ve forgotten to connect with the people that we love the most. This one thing is so simple to do, it’s so practical.
Okay perhaps it will require some changes to some entrenched routines; perhaps your children will raise their eyebrows and wonder what is going on. But remember that study, most of the children on this planet long for a return of regular family meals together. And for you it’s perhaps the simplest, most practical thing that you can do to stop your family from falling apart.
Just sit down once every day and have a meal with your family. Can it really be that simple? Sure it can. If the studies are right it’s worth a try isn’t it?
As I open my Bible there seems to be precious little in it about sharing a meal together as a family or is there? I guess back in the times when the various Books of the Bible were written there weren’t all these distractions that we have today to tear families apart. No cable television, no mobile phones, no internet, no social media, hey not even any electricity yet it seems that God sees the family as the central piece of bringing children close to Him.
This is what God says to His people way back in the Old Testament Book of Deuteronomy chapter 6, verses 4 to 7:
Hear this O Israel, the Lord is our God the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart and recite them to your children and talk about them when you’re at home and when you’re away, when you’re lying down and when you rise up.”
In other words talk to your kids about God and to the Church in the New Testament He says this in Hebrews chapter 10, verse 25:
And let us not neglect our meeting together as some people do but encourage one another especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”
Bring those two together into a modern-day malady of families falling apart, well the message is clear. We need to spend time together as a family, it’s good for us, it’s Gods will for us and the easiest way to start is to do what comes naturally. Just have dinner together every night, it really is that simple.