Beyond Thanksgiving: The Surprising
Power of Family Meals
Courtesy of BreakPoint Online
with Charles Colson
It's almost time again for the best-known meal of the year.
On this particular day, Thanksgiving, families will gather together
around the dinner table, even if some of them have to be dragged
away from the football game. Some people—as with my family—will
even fly or drive hundreds of miles to be with their families.
Thanksgiving is still important enough to us that we make every
effort to gather with our loved ones for a family meal.
But what about the other 364 days of the year?
Sadly, for many families, the effort of gathering for a family
meal on an ordinary day is just too much. Parents have to work
late. Kids have soccer practice or band practice or dance practice.
In the frantic effort to juggle schedules and make sure nobody
goes hungry, it's often easier to feed the kids fast food in the
car, or to have everyone grab something out of the freezer on
their way through the kitchen.
Though we know there's something wrong with this state of affairs,
we don't always realize how serious the problem is. That's why
Miriam Weinstein's new book, The Surprising Power of Family
Meals, is so valuable.
As other authors have done, Weinstein tells us fewer and fewer
families are taking the time to eat dinner together. Then she
delves into the reasons why we should eat with our families,
looking at various studies on the benefits of family dinners.
Believe it or not, researchers have carefully studied dinnertime—from
the kind of conversation that goes on around the table, to the
lifelong effect that regular mealtimes have on children's eating
The research indicates that many young adults with eating disorders
never had a regular dinnertime when they were growing up. They
literally never learned how to eat a proper meal.
Weinstein tells us that when the National Center on Addiction
and Substance Abuse studied ways to keep kids from destructive
behaviors, family dinners were "more important than church
attendance, more important even than grades at school." The
Center has repeated that study several times since then, "and
every year, eating supper together regularly as a family tops
the list of variables that are within our control."
You see, there's a lot more to family dinners than meets the
eye. They have "the power of ritual," giving parents
and kids the chance to connect, adding a sense of security to
the daily routine. They're an opportunity for parents to teach
about family history and traditions, so that they give kids a
sense of identity. Even dysfunctional families seem to work just
a little bit better when they make time to eat dinner together.
The point is, family meals aren't just about food. As Weinstein
puts it, "Supper is about nourishment of all kinds."
That includes physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual
So one night this week I invite you to join me: Print this "BreakPoint,"
make a pot of stew, set the table, and gather around the table
for dinner and a conversation about the value and priority of
family meals. Remember: Eating together can make a big difference
for us and our children when this year's Thanksgiving dinner is
just a distant memory.
Note: This commentary was delivered by Prison Fellowship
President Mark Earley.
From BreakPoint, Copyright 2005 Prison Fellowship
with Chuck Colson" is a radio ministry
of Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with permission of
Prison Fellowship, P.O. Box 17500, Washington, DC, 20041-0500."
Heard on more than 1000 radio stations nationwide. For more information
on the ministry of Chuck Colson and Prison Fellowship visit their
web site at http://www.breakpoint.org.
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