WebMD has an article on the advantages of family dinners for overall health, family dynamic, and “mealtime bliss.” I’m going to pick out the finer points as it relates to effective communication.
Research conducted at Columbia University recently determined that children who eat regularly with their families are less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol and more likely to do better in school. Furthermore, experts say that couples and singles benefit from such dinners.
While most of the article deals with setting the mood and planning meals, there is one section that is particularly relevant to me and my readers, I think. According to the article, “Too often, say experts, we see dinner with our partner or family as an opportunity to air grievances. This can be particularly true for parents, who may turn the dinner hour into a discipline hour, often because they feel it’s the only time they have their child’s attention.” This is bad, according to the article. And I had never really thought about it before. I had certainly mused on the importance of eating dinner at the table, with loved ones. This is how I was raised, and this is how I continue to live. It is a lovely way to end the work day. It allows time for reflection, connection, and comfort: in other words things we lack in our go, go, go work days.
But this brings up a good point. Do we really reflect, connect, or comfort one another is the dinner table becomes our place to kvetch, complain, and demand. Don’t we do enough of that already?
To avoid this, set ground rules for dinnertime conversation. Don’t bitch about your boss. Don’t “discuss the ‘honey-do’ list.” Don’t harp on homework or housework.
Such happy dialogue and a happy place to share it — because who doesn’t love the dinner table? — will make us more effective in our communications by bringing the joy back to them. And though we may not have spent an hour complaining about that progress report, it may be easier to head off to it in the morning having spent an enjoyable dinner at home the night before.