I have a lot of fond memories of growing up, but one thing that I enjoyed the most over the years, is eating dinner as a family. For as long as I lived at home, we ate supper together. Yes, there were times that I was out with friends or my parents were away, but on most nights, this was our special time together.
- We always turned off the television.
- We always put electronics away.
- Nobody answered the phone or the doorbell.
- For 45 minutes to an hour, we gave all of our attention to the people in front of us.
Our conversations varied over the years, but we often used this time to discuss special moments about our day, talk about what we were reading or events in the news, enjoy many laughs together, and really open up to each other. We all had opportunities to share.
As a teacher now, I think back on how much I learned from these family dinners.
- I learned social skills: taking turns, problem solving, and respecting different opinions.
- I learned oral language skills: including speaking, listening, and developing new vocabulary.
- I learned reading skills: particularly connected to reading comprehension and critical literacy (discussing various texts).
- I learned metacognitive skills: thinking back on what happened during the day, reflecting on how I did, and setting goals for improvement.
- I also learned the value in developing relationships and the power in doing so. I continue to be very close to my parents, and I know that these family dinners played an important role in this.
I realize that all families have different schedules. I’ve taught children that have parents that work shift work, and other families, that have children involved in extracurricular activities that overlap with mealtimes. Busy is the new normal, and maybe family mealtimes every night is an unattainable goal. But what is possible? Even if just some family members sit down, talk, and eat together, what value might this have for children?
The other day, I saw a tweet that mentioned a Grade 2 teacher’s new “homework policy” — a letter which has gone viral on Facebook — that includes “eating dinner as a family.”
Second-grade teacher's unique homework policy goes viral https://t.co/ZI5RLnU2Fk via @cbsnews
— Sara Edwards (@EdwardsSaraJ) August 23, 2016
Imagine if all students completed this “homework.” I wonder what impact this might have on a school’s social and academic learning environment. What do you think?
Aviva, I love this post! Such a simple, common day practice that has people now saying “wow, you actually eat dinner as a family?” I have two boys who are both busy with hockey, I work and my husband works, but we do our very best to have dinner together! Our rules are no iPads, phones, answering the phone and if you friend comes to the door tell them you can’t come out till later. Our dinner don’t last long as the boys are 5 and 7, but it’s a way for us to gather together and have conversations. At the beginning it was a HUGE struggle to enforce no iPads, but now they know we are serious and they don’t argue about it (well 99% of the time they don’t!)
We can’t all sit together every night based on the boys sometimes eating earlier than when my husband gets home, however, I hope they remember these moments.
I usually ask them the best part and worst part of their day and it interesting what they say. We problem solve together and celebrate the good times and always focus on the positives. They also learn more about manners and take responsibility for taking their plate to the sink.
Thanks for the post 🙂
Thanks for the comment, Maggie, and for sharing how you make this routine work with your boys. I love how you mentioned that it’s shorter now, as they are younger (it doesn’t have to be long to be meaningful) and that it may be without your husband, but you still make it work to sit down and talk. I find it interesting that others are so surprised by your family mealtimes. When did this become such an uncommon practice? What might it take to change this, and what could this change mean for kids? Thanks for giving me more to think about!
You’re very welcome! I think when parents are working and that includes stay at home moms it’s sometimes easier to all just unwind without being together. Before kids were not so busy with extra curricular activities and squeezing in homework. Not sitting together sometimes is the unwinding everyone needs and the calm before kids are rushed out and the words “get your homework done” are repeated over and over! Life is a lot busier than normal and I am also surprised at how many people are shocked we can make it work. I think the key is making what works for your family happen and cherishing the connections you can make before the next after school event happens.
I think for kids it creates more open relationships with their caregivers and they feel listened to. Its the same in class…if we can’t make connections with our students why would they come to seek support if anything negative happens or to celebrate a positive moment in their lives. You seek out people who you can trust and feel respected by and that starts off with simple things like a family dinner.
Thanks for your reply, Maggie! I particularly love your line here – “I think the key is making what works for your family happen and cherishing the connections you can make before the next after school event happens.” – along with your point about the importance of connections/relationships. It’s great that you can make this happen, and also that you see the value in this time, to make it a priority. It may be unrealistic for all families to sit down together every single night, but I think it’s worth exploring what could be done, even if it’s just some family members sitting, eating, and talking together. I would love to know what others do. Thanks for adding so much to this important discussion!
You’re very welcome! Thank you for your ongoing posts, which always cause me to pause for reflection.
Thanks Maggie! I really appreciate the comments that continue to get me thinking more.
My team and I took this letter, revised it to fit our needs a little better, and sent it home with our students. As hard as they work all day, and as booked as their little lives are at night, they all deserve to have time to just be kids. It’s also made me think differently about how I will use my time in the classroom to help kids complete some of those “nightly” tasks we always asked them to do. We’ll see how it goes, but I’m excited to think about the possibilities.
Thanks for the comment, Becky! What you did, sounds great. I would love to know more about the re-thinking that you did, and the impact that this change has on kids.