The Importance of Mealtime

by Debbie Nowak

Family dinners are more than just a time to eat, they serve as a way to stay connected with one another and God. Below we’ll explore seven various reasons why family dinners are essential for a strong family and faith life.

1. Family dinners keep us connected to one another

As Catholics, we know how important it is to keep connected to God. Family dinners are important because it allows us to relax, recharge, and re-connect with our family members, while also making time for God when we start the meal with a prayer, thanking him for his gifts.

2. Family dinners hold us accountable

My husband works long days and he wants to provide well for his family. It can be tempting for him to stay an extra hour or more at work, because the work needs to get done. Knowing dinner is at 6, means he has to stop work and go home to his family. It also means I am responsible for getting dinner on the table, the kids are responsible for being home and setting the table. This is what works for us, but for you, the chores may be divided differently. The point is, we are accountable to one another to make sure we pull off dinnertime together.

3. Family dinners teach kids how to be adults

No elbows on the table. Don’t talk with your mouth full. Don’t reach across your brother! Say “please” and “thank you.” Adults use proper manners. Eating together every day gives us a chance to teach kids how to behave like adults and have good table manners. Don’t underestimate good table manners! Many a date has been ruined or a future job lost because of poor table manners.

4. Family dinners give us a chance to share stories

Just the other night, Grandma and Grandpa came over for dinner and we were talking about what happened to our country on that fateful day, September 11, 2001. We could recall exactly where we were and what we were doing when we learned that the Twin Towers had fallen. Our youngest kids were infants when that happened and, of course, they have no recollection of that day. As we were talking, my teenaged son commented how interesting it was to learn about history this way! So much more interesting than reading about it in a history book. Plus, family history is interesting because it’s family history. Which brings us to reason #5…

5. Family dinners (and the stories we tell) build resiliency in children

Other studies have shown that when Mom and Dad and Grandma and Grandpa tell stories of adversity or struggles they have endured, and how they got through them, kids build resiliency and optimism for the future. We’re showing kids, through our own stories, that you can handle it. Life isn’t fair; and sometimes life deals you a bad hand, but you can overcome these hurdles and achieve great things because Mom and Dad and Grandma and Grandpa did. And if they did, you can too.

6. Family dinners pass on traditions

Don’t underestimate these seemingly little things that you may take for granted because your parents or grandparents did them. Kids need these traditions. They need to know they’re connected to something larger than themselves. Something resilient. Some people who love them. When we were first married, my husband introduced me to his family’s way of saying grace before meals. We use the traditional Catholic blessing, “Bless us O Lord…” but we add another little prayer of supplication at the end. It’s not a big deal, but it’s OUR deal. Holidays have even more traditions, and dinnertime is typically the time we dust off those traditions and share them with our kids.

7. Family dinners give us a foretaste of the heavenly banquet

Okay, maybe “Taco Tuesday” isn’t going to win us any cooking awards, but the fact that we’re sitting down together, sharing a meal, is part of the covenantal language of the Old Testament, which Jesus updated with the breaking of the bread and the sharing of his own Body and Blood in the New Testament, and finds fulfillment in the heavenly banquet which is spoken of in the book of Revelation. Whenever something important happens in the Bible, or in our lives, it is often accompanied by a meal. In our own lives, it could be a date night, a wedding feast, or Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends. God wants to gather us all in to his heavenly banquet at the end of time. Our family dinnertimes can restore right relationships within a family, keep parents and kids connected, and remind us of our ultimate home in heaven.

About the Author

Debbie Nowak is a convert to the Catholic faith, for which she gives thanks and praise to God daily. She met her husband, Joe, when they were both naval officers in Italy . They have been married for over three decades. They have ten children and multiple grandchildren. Her life goals include helping others know the supreme happiness of having a Christ-centered marriage and the fullness of truth found in the Catholic Church. She and her husband live in Colorado.