Dear Grandparenting: It’s darn near impossible to get my grandchildren together for a meal. Their parents both work and let them fend for themselves in the kitchen. I know my cooking isn’t the problem because I can still whip up something nutritious and yum-yum with the very best of them.
I always felt like good things happen when a family eats together. It’s a special time. It seemed almost spiritual when everyone sits down at the table talking over the day’s events. It was the best time to get a grip on how the kids were doing.
My pediatrician used to tell me that the family meal was a great way to prevent juvenile delinquency. And you know what? He was right!! All my kids became good responsible adults. So what does this say for my grandkids? Amy Tinsley, Louisville, Kentucky
Dear Amy: We have some good news for grandparents who struggle to maintain the traditional family mealtime. Missing out on the family mealtime does not doom your grandchildren to a life of sin and ruin. The magical qualities that many customarily associate with family meals are fiction, say researchers.
In a perfect world, the entire family would come together for dinner. It’s a rare window of focused time together, a golden opportunity to influence grandchildren. (The second-best chance to talk with children about their lives is while driving in a car, according to a Columbia University study of teenagers.)
But a recent study in the Journal of Marriage and Family indicates that other factors play a much bigger role: how families differ in the quality of family relationships or activities like movie-going and helping with homework, and monitoring (i.e., curfews and approving clothing).
Researchers looked into whether family dinners in the teenage years had effects that showed up in young adulthood. The results? There were no direct and/or lasting effects of family mealtime on mental health, drug and alcohol use or delinquency.
GRAND REMARK OF THE WEEK
Bev North, of Olivet, Michigan, reports she saw “the biggest smile ever come over the face of my granddaughter, Elise, after I told her that grandmothers like me are just antique granddaughters like her.”
Dee and Tom, married more than 50 years, have eight grandchildren. Together with Key, they welcome questions, suggestions and Grand Remarks of the Week. Send to P.O. Box 27454, Towson, MD, 21285. Call 410-963-4426.