Youth ministry is an important topic to me because of not only my time in youth ministry as a kid, but all the time I have invested in it as a youth pastor and volunteer. Combine that with my other passion on the topic of boundaries and self-care…and avoiding burnout — well you get five posts that I wrote over the last couple of weeks on the topic, Youth Ministry, Boundaries, and Burnout. I hope you check these posts out and that you find them helpful. Let me know if you have any questions or additional thoughts that you want to add to them.
“On the tenth anniversary of Family Day, newly released statistics from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University show that teens who have infrequent family dinners — less than three per week — are more than twice as likely as teens who eat with their families at least five times each week to say they expect to try drugs in the future. Those same teens are twice as likely to have used tobacco and alcohol and 1.5 times as likely to have used marijuana.”
I thought this was an interesting article, Simple Fix: Family Dinners Help Teens Avoid Drinking and Using Drugs, and as a therapist, pastor and father, I hear a lot of anecdotal evidence, as well as some research based evidence on the importance of family meals together. I consistently hear that somewhere in the neighborhood of 4-5 dinners a night drastically reduces the risks of your kids engaging in “high risk behavior” (i.e. drugs, alcohol, sex, etc.).
Obviously, having dinner together is not the key. It’s what happens when we spend time together. When you make eating dinner together a priority, you signal to your kids and everyone else, that our time together is valuable. It’s a time to connect and engage one another. It’s not good enough to just have a meal time together, but there is no engagement, the tv is on, and there are other distractions.
Some tips for family meal times:
- Make it a participatory event. Let everyone have a role in the preparation of the meal and in the cleanup. Regardless of a kids age, find something appropriate that they can do to participate. I often let my 3 year old daughter stir things for me, or with my supervision, cut some of the veggies or fruit up. She also helps in putting her dishes in the dishwasher. I have noticed that when she participates she is more engaged in the mealtime.
- Cut out distractions. Turn off TV. Turn off radio. Put away video games. Put away cell phones.
- Be present. By that, let everyone know by your words and actions that this is one of the most important times of the week for you. And in being present, you are able to engage and connect with everyone better.
- Play a “game” that may facilitate conversation and engagement for kids (I don’t mean a video or board game), but play a “game” where everyone has to tell about the best part of the day. Or worst part of the day. Maybe at the end of the meal read a story, or ask a trivia question. Be creative.
- Model to your kids what connecting looks like. If you are single or married demonstrate to them by your conversation and engagement the expectations for the meal time together.
- Change the scenery. Go out to dinner. Have a picnic at the house – inside or outside. Pretend like you are camping and have your food be around that theme. Be Creative.
What else have you found helpful?
I like checking out and reading a lot of different blogs, but one that I have enjoyed a lot recently is Messy Canvas. I love her writing style (authentic, beautiful prose), and I like the material that she chooses to engage. As a father and husband I find myself resonating a lot with her stories of family life. She also just published a book, Angry Homemade Noodles: Imperfect Motherhood. Check it out.