As a family therapist, I often have the impulse to tell families to go home and have dinner together rather than spending an hour with me. And 20 years of research in North America, Europe and Australia back up my enthusiasm for family dinners. It turns out that sitting down for a nightly meal is great for the brain, the body and the spirit.
Fishel says that eating with the family raises children’s vocabulary, improves their school performance, leads to more healthy eating habits overall, and reduces high risk teenage behaviors.
I don’t doubt that what Fishel says is true. But I marvel at the fact that we need tangible reasons of betterment to have family meals. Surely eating together as a family should be so natural and pleasant that people do it just for its own sake, unless of course the family is so dysfunctional that being together even for a short time leads to further conflict? When I was a child or when our children were still at home or, now that they are grown and have homes of their own and we visit them, we have at least one meal a day together and usually two without even thinking about it, just because it seems obviously the thing to do since it provides a chance to talk about things.
Have families become so fragmented in their behaviors that they need reasons to eat together?