The Family That Dines Together…

51paZdlD-NL._SX425_[1]A few years ago a handful of well-regarded studies proclaimed some amazing benefits to children who regularly have dinner with their parents. The benefits ranged from a better diet to better familial relationships to better gradesParenting is so exhausting, I’m wary of championing news that feeds our perfectionism or our guilt. And yet I like the idea of eating together regularly as a family—even if my own children, at ages 16 and 12, would treat dinner time like speedway re-fueling on their way to something else, something more pressing or fun, like watching “Parks And Rec,” if my wife and I didn’t insist on their company from start to finish.

This is going to sound mighty corny, but when the kids were younger—and still every now and then—we had a lot fun at dinner time with every manner of wacky contests, from Adam Trivia (based on adventures of my 12-year-old son) to What’s Missing (i.e. taking turns closing your eyes as some else removes an item for table, then looking around and guessing what’s missing. It’s harder than you think). For inspiration, I recommend the activity box, Family Time Fun Dinner Games and Activities (pictured here).

This year, however, despite such enticement as Adam Trivia, my daughter, Elena, at age 16, had a get-out-of-dinner-early card that was hard to push back on: All the studying that awaiting her after dinner.

But that was then, and now it’s summer, and for the first summer in many years, Elena is home with us instead of at sleepaway camp. With Adam back at camp—there is only one child to feed and there is every temptation to eat out or order in. Last night I resisted, making this delicious shrimp recipe my wife found in the Times.

How much time did it take Elena to eat and chat for a bit? Not sure. Ten minutes, maybe 15 minutes, but before I knew it, without any prompting from me she was up and gone, sprinkling a quick “thank you for dinner” on her way back to her room and her computer.

I called her back to the table for a clarification, namely that dinner wasn’t over.

And then I thought to myself, this is exactly how I was at her age. My mom wanted to talk about anything that I would be interested in talking about with her, and I wasn’t interested in talking about anything with her. So we’d eat, and we’d part—a system I don’t remember her balking against either.

My wife and I have the idea that this would be a good summer for Elena to more fully share a range of household responsibilities, among them prepping for dinner.

We still need to tell her this!

Eric Messinger is the editor of  New York Family. He can be reached at [email protected]





Relevant Directory Listings

See More

Incarnation Camp

<p dir="ltr">Wilderness adventure & classic summer camp fun!</p> <p dir="ltr">Located in coastal Connecticut, on over 700 wooded acres surrounding a mile-long private lake, Incarnation Camps are the country's oldest co-ed camps.  Since 1886, we have provided a fun-filled, traditional camp with experiential learning and group living in the outdoors.  We guide campers through well-rounded & adventurous programs that develop an appreciation for nature & celebrate the uniqueness of each individual.  We offer both overnight and day camp programs on our property and serve over 1000 campers each summer through our various programs.</p>

Buckley Day Camp

<p><span style="caret-color: #202020; color: #202020; font-family: 'Lucida Sans Unicode', sans-serif; font-size: 14px; background-color: #ffffff;">At Buckley Day Camp your children will experience a program designed to meet their individual needs.  Nursery through kindergarten have a traditional day camp program, while 1st – 7th graders have an elective based program.8th & 9th graders participate in a camp/travel program and 10th graders can join their CIT program. Swim instruction daily in 4 outdoor heated pools. Door to door transportation provided on air conditioned mini buses. Lunch & snacks provided daily.</span></p>

Marks JCH Summer Camp

<p><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;" data-sheets-value="{" data-sheets-userformat="{">About Us: Marks JCH of Bensonhurst offers age-appropriate and stimulating experience for all campers. The mission of the JCH is to be a center of community life in Brooklyn, rooted in Jewish values and fostering an inclusive environment. Camp is an embodiment of that mission: it fosters positive relationships, encourages new experiences, and creates lasting friendships where all are welcome. Developed and led by a group of professional instructors, educators, and parents, JCH Camp is a combination of hands-on activities, instructional swim, and exciting trips – all of which nurture growth and foster child’s development. JCH always puts safety of the community first and is looking forward to providing a high-quality camp experience this summer — out in nature, and off screens. The doors of the “J” are always open – please visit JCH website at</span></p>