I grew up in a family form called the traditional family, where children were raised by a married couple (man and woman). The “traditional” family was at one time the dominant family form in America. That family structure had a profound effect on my view of the family, which is no longer shared by an increasing number of people.
I came to believe that the traditional family provided a level of stability that would greatly benefit the children emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, and even physically. I thought it was the best model for a family.
However, today the traditional family is no longer the dominant family form. According to research done by the Pew Research Center, there is currently no dominant family form. Whereas in the 1960s were most children were raised by married parents, now there is a high percentage of children raised by single parents, parents that were remarried, or cohabitating parents.
In 1960 about 73% of children lived with two married parents in their first marriage and 9% with a single parent. By 2014 46% of children lived with two married parents in their first marriage and 26% lived with a single parent (mostly with their mothers). Additional statistics can be found on the Census Bureau’s website. The traditional family is surely on the decline.
Not only is the traditional family, which I consider the best model, on the decline, but the dynamics within the family has also changed. One family practice was to eat meals together and spend time together. Now, everyone, including the parents, has their own life within the household. Families don’t even eat meals together anymore.
The Importance of Meals Together
Looking back on my childhood days, one of the best things about family life was the dinner table, whether it was dinnertime or not. We ate together as a family and we ate whatever my mother or father cooked. I couldn’t come home and tell my parents that I was going to cook something else besides what they had prepared. That would have been a “health hazard” if you know what I mean.
Studies show that families don’t eat meals together, though some parents are realizing how important family meals are. An article by the Stanford Children’s Health organization indicates the importance and benefits of family meals.
I have been quite passionate about the family meal for many years. I realized that there was usually something that would interfere with a family sitting down and eating a meal together. For example, many years ago I thought about Thanksgiving dinner. What typically happens when men are present. Most want to watch football games. That really troubled me.
I freed myself from the need to watch sports back when I was a student at Drexel University. It was either watch the game (The Seventy Sixers at that time) or study for the electronics test. I chose to study and was freed from needing to watch the game.
There was one time when we had guests over for dinner. I was looking forward to the conversations, but they were more interested in their business meeting in a multi-level marketing company. I protested and they acquiesced to my wishes and we sat down as a family (and friends) and talked.
I think we should give much more priority to family dinners than we currently do. It helps to bind the family together, identify and resolve issues, and enjoy each other’s company.
Teach By Example
What are you teaching your children about family bonding? You do not need to abandon family meals merely because the family form has changed. Even single parents can enforce family dinners together.
However, if a child is accustomed to eating separately from the family or not eating what was prepared, then they will pass that paradigm onto their children. How many parents are teaching their children that a family doesn’t need to get together for a meal?
My point is that if you don’t practice eating together as a family, then your children will not incorporate that practice into their lives when they are adults. That will be another nail in the coffin of the traditional family. In any case, what the child learns at home will have some influence on him or her, and family meals should be one of the things they learn.
The Dreaded Television
There was no television in the room where my family ate when I was a kid. We sat down at the table and talked to each other. However, now, television and social media have captivated our attention. We would rather browse facebook than to talk to each other. We would rather watch soap operas instead of having intimate conversations with each other, even married couples.
Our society has an increasing number of resources that enable humans to be impersonal. My generation might say that it started with video games. My brothers and I used to go outside and play with other youths. Now, children merely pop open the video game, and they are in a fantastic world of fantasies with no need to interact with other humans.
Of course, it is difficult for parents because we are surrounded by so many impersonal means of interacting with each other. We might try to enforce personal interactions with our children, but they are bombarded with the opposite when they go to school. Our efforts to promote personal interaction is also hindered by the fact that other youths probably are not trying to be personable.
One might argue that they are too busy to sit down with the family to eat. After all, you could be more productive if you eat while working. I believe that such is an illusion. We think that if we keep busy that we are more productive. I would rather be 100% productive as I focus on a task than to be less productive because I’m tired.
If something is truly important to you then you will make time to do it. The problem is that family meals are not important anymore. Everyone goes their way to do their own thing. They are all too busy to be a family and at least have a meal together. However, the truth is that you’re not too busy. Eating together simply isn’t important to you.
Try to incorporate family meals in your family. Sit down at a table, turn the television off, leave the mobile devices in another room, and have a meal together and talk to each other. The concept of family is evolving in our society, but that doesn’t mean that we have to be disengaged from each other. Get engaged and eat together.
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