Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. Melody Beattie

As I sit writing today I do so with a grateful heart. Mom and Dad always said grace at meals and my husband and I implemented this in our family. Eating together is one of the best things we can do as families. A family therapist says she often has the impulse to tell families to go home and eat dinner together.

Sitting down for a nightly meal is great for the brain, body, and spirit. Dinner conversation boosts young children’s vocabulary more than being read aloud to. Researchers found young children learned 1,000 rare words at the dinner table, compared to only 143 from parents reading storybooks.

Regular mealtime is a higher predictor of high achievement scores than time spent in school, doing homework, playing sports or doing art. Children who eat regular family dinners consume more fruits, vegetables, vitamins, and micronutrients, as well as fewer fried foods and soft drinks. The dividends keep paying off as children get older, teens are less likely to be obese and more likely to eat healthily once they live on their own.

Studies show family dinners are a more powerful deterrent against high-risk teen behaviors than church attendance and good grades. Researchers find regular family dinners are associated with lower rates of depression and suicidal thoughts.  In a recent study victims of cyberbullying bounced back more readily if they had regular family dinners.

In a survey American teens were asked when they were most likely to talk to their parents. Dinner was the answer. When children eat dinner with their parents they have a better relationship and less stress with them.

Of course, the real power of these dinners lies in their interpersonal quality. If we sit in stony silence, yell at each other, or scold our kids there won’t be as positive of an outcome. It isn’t sharing the roast beef that makes it magical. It is the time we can share a positive experience, a joke, an achievement, a concern, a point of view, these small moments gain momentum and create stronger connections over time.

Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude. Denis Waitley

If we start our dinners with Grace we can create an attitude of gratitude in our children. A regular time to be grateful is part of learning to be grateful. Reverend Ed Bacon says “If you don’t learn gratitude as a child, you can grow up to be an ingrate and that is one of the worst possible human conditions. The essence of life is a gift. What do you do when you receive a gift? It is a diminishment of the human soul not to know that life is a gift.”

When we recognize the importance of all the blessings small and large that come our way every day we are grateful. Unexpressed gratitude is like a hug never given.

Somedays it is hard to be grateful, we can at least be grateful for the farmer that planted the seed that bore the grain that became the bread, pasta, etc. There is always something to be grateful for, even if it is just to get through the hardest day of your life. Another day, another gift.

Our children are no longer children. We still have family dinners, but not so often. When we do we have added members we are grateful for. Some of the highlights of our week are sitting around the table talking and laughing.

I think one of the things growing up eating dinner together gives us is an ease of getting together as adults. We pick up where we left off easily. If we didn’t develop closeness at family dinners how would it be getting together with siblings as adults?

If TV is on during dinner kindergartners are more likely to be overweight by the time they are in third grade. The association with TV watching during dinner and overweight children has also been reported in Sweden, Finland, and Portugal.

I am so grateful my parents said grace at mealtimes and we always ate together. It is a tradition I hope my children implement as they begin their lives. Being grateful and eating together is a great way to start building a happy, healthy, grateful, family culture.

In ordinary life, we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich. Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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Come and Eat: A Celebration of Love and Grace Around the Everyday Table Paperback – Sep 5 2017