By Megan Stonelake
Most therapists will tell you that family dinners are essential for raising well-balanced children. Even “the most important thing you can do with your kids.” The assumption is that we all have hectic lives and various activities that keep us busy. If we don’t reconnect over dinner, we’re missing important opportunities for conversation with our children. The communal dinner has become a ubiquitous family value, one we’re all supposed to observe if we want to be good parents.
The communal dinner has become a ubiquitous family value, one we’re all supposed to observe if we want to be good parents.
I’ve had a dirty little secret for far too long, and it’s time to fess up: we don’t have family dinners at my house. As a therapist who has suggested family dinners to countless families over the years, this confession feels a little taboo. Yet I stand firmly in our stance to skip family dinners.
Our only son is five, and his preferred dinnertime is 4.30pm. My husband comes home from work about 5.15pm, and he likes to eat dinner about 7.30pm. I’ve tried my darndest to get them both to the table at 5.30pm, and I almost always regret it. It means an hour of melting down beforehand because my kid is starving, and it means my husband is perched awkwardly not really eating because he isn’t hungry yet. It feels stressful and contrived. It’s pretty much the opposite of the picture most therapists paint about the importance of quality family time.
- KIDS CONNECT THROUGH PLAY
My son and I are together all day nearly every day of the week. We have plenty of time for connection. I already know what he’s been up to all day, so we don’t really need to catch up over dinner. I was there for the play date he had this morning. The walk he took in the afternoon? I was there for that too. When my husband gets home, our five year old doesn’t want to sit down over a meal and have a conversation about his day. He wants to wrestle and play! After a long day apart, it’s more meaningful that our son reconnects with his dad in the way that matters most to him.
When my husband gets home, our five year old doesn’t want to sit down over a meal and have a conversation about his day. He wants to wrestle and play!