The Dinner Table: Nourishing Mind, Body & Soul

Andrea Cladis


Current scholarly research in Family Communications stresses that the family dinner table is one of the most important places for the development of healthy children. According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA), “Having dinner as a family is one of the easiest ways to create routine opportunities for parental engagement and communication, two keys to raising drug-free children.” Eating dinner as a family on a regular basis enhances familial communication, and produces healthier children prone to eat well and refrain from substance abuse and a host of other potentially dangerous recreational activities. Unfortunately, in our fast-paced society, the ritual of family dinners is rapidly diminishing. Meal time together often seems impossible, but in losing this sacred ritual, our society faces the threat of losing focus, order and centrality. Yet studies insist that reclaiming this daily time is imperative for strengthening family ties and monitoring the activities and maturity of children and teens. A Harvard University study concludes, “Family dinners are more important than play, story time and other family events in the development of vocabulary of younger children.” When dinner time is not a priority for families, children are at a much greater risk of developing learning disabilities and statistically perform lower in school. So why not take the time to gather around the table? What has been discovered through extensive research is that there is no perfect or ideal family meal. The primary requirement for the family dinner is that all family members are present and participating in the simple act of breaking bread and conversing with one another. After all, “on those evenings when the mood is right and the family lingers, caught up in an idea or an argument explored in a shared, safe place where no one is stupid or shy or ashamed, you get a glimpse of the power of this habit and why social scientists say such communion acts as a kind of vaccine, protecting kids from all manner of harm” 1.


Family, Health, Ritual

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