Sunday Dinner: The Family Tradition We Need To Bring Back


Many people remember Sunday dinners as a big thing when they were kids. Everyone in the family just knew that the end of the weekend should be planned for a long-standing date with the family members, including grandparents. That time was reserved to hang around the house and see the relatives. 

According to Dr. Vanessa Lapointe, a registered psychologist and parenting expert “The family that eats together thrives together.” She also explains that the time during meals has historically been a time of family togetherness, which is extremely important if there are multiple generations. She added that diversity in terms of ages and interests are just so good for kids.

A famous writer Ronnie Koenig explains that her childhood was influenced significantly by having her grandparents within a short driving distance and her aunt, uncle, and cousin within walking distance. Unfortunately, it’s not the case now for her children, because the family visits are now practiced unless it’s someone’s birthday, holiday or another special occasion that necessitates a visit.

After losing her dad a few years ago, she began to realize that these moments together aren’t guaranteed, and started to think about how to connect her family better and not just in a catch-up-every-once-in-a-while way. Her plan was without telling anyone, to start a Sunday night dinner tradition.

What’s for dinner doesn’t matter

It was not important what would be prepared for dinner, the ability to make a communal environment was more important.

All her family members have busy schedules — work to do, shopping to run, kids to shuttle around — but everyone can save a few hours on Sunday evening, and take a break from it all. The best part of those dinners is the gathering around the table together.

The Family Dinner Project was founded by Anne Fishel, Ph.D., a family therapist, in order to encourage families to connect over mealtime. She tells that there are numerous benefits of families eating together, including:

  • The cognitive ones – young kids having bigger vocabularies and older kids doing better in school
  • The physical ones – better cardiovascular health, eating more vegetables and fruits, and lower obesity rates
  • Psychological ones – lower rates of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse and fewer behavioral problems in school

These benefits are due to the atmosphere at the table, not because of the food eaten. However, if there is conflict, stony silence or an intoxicated parent, then these benefits do not occur. It’s crucial that the atmosphere at the table should be warm and inviting, provides the possibility for kids to talk and they know that someone is listening.

Fishel emphasizes that even though this family dinner tradition needs a little effort, but it’s not impossible and is worthy to be practiced. The biggest effort is to overcome the driving distance by taking turns whose house the family members go to. 

According to the studies, older adults thrive and actually live longer when they have consistent social interactions. However, it is important for the kids, as the real-life facetime provides an invaluable connection to the people in the world. Also, everyone is happy as that is an opportunity to see family that gives him/her footing.

How to institute a Sunday dinner tradition

If the idea of Sunday dinner doesn’t sound you really there are ways to make it workable and the benefits you’ll reap will be worth the effort.

–           Remember not only the close family members can be a part of this tradition.

Because not everyone has relatives nearby. You can also count on your friends because they can be your extended family.

–           “Sunday dinner” shouldn’t be exactly on Sunday.

You can pick whatever day or time which is more appropriate for you, and it is just good to know that there are at least sixteen opportunities a week to eat together – seven breakfasts, seven dinners, and two-weekend lunches. Also, some people use intentional snack in the evening when everyone takes a break from computer or homework, and that is a good opportunity to connect over food, conversation, and fun. You may call this tradition in different ways (Taco Tuesday, Saturday breakfast, or something else). The most important thing is to be together.

–           Keep things casual.

You shouldn’t complicate those events, keep them casual. When it comes to food all possibilities are welcomed, as well as new recipes, but keep in mind to be easy and not stressful. Involving everybody in planning and cooking should be practiced, too. 

–           Collect all electronic devices.

This time can be managed without the electronic devices for a couple of hours one day of the week.

–           Plan ahead.

Even though everyone is aware of the numerous benefits of the family dinner, but waiting for it to happen on its own is almost impossible. They should be scheduled with the family, like other important appointments.

This commitment to dinner, whether it’s ones or more times a week, makes it intentional and a shared priority. By putting a note on your calendar for those events and sharing them with others, you’ll acknowledge everyone to plan it.  Those who are dining with friends can rotate a different friend’s house each week. Don’t stop if someone can’t make it, but keep it going until it becomes a routine.


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