Each year, many of us choose to make a New Year's resolution in order to better ourselves, our loved ones and our lives in general. School days are here again, and this year I propose that you commit to a School Year resolution that will benefit all of the above. Your life will be better, your children's lives improved and you will give them memories that will last a lifetime. How much will this cost? Zero, yet it's priceless. It's time. Time spent as a family…at the dinner table.
When I was growing up, there was one constant, never to be missed. Nothing trumped this occasion; not school, extracurricular activities or friends. This was the evening meal.
Family dinner time was 6:00p.m.--sharp, and there was no excuse to miss it. Even as a teenager, armed with my driver's license, before 6:00 rolled around I would have to leave what I was doing, go home, sit down at the table and eat with the family. Only then was I free to return to what I was doing.
It didn't matter how long dinnertime lasted. Sometimes a brief 20 minutes, other times an hour. But it was a time when we all connected, tightening the bond that holds a family together. It was, as they say, the good ol' days, and it wasn't until I got much older that I realized the value of those family gatherings.
The evening meal allowed all of us to keep up with each other, perhaps get some advice or learn about the world. Mom and Dad would suggest solutions for dealings with friends, temptations, teachers, classes and so much more. They were involved parents, knowing what we did and who we did it with.
This time also allowed me to get a vivid glimpse of life in America during the Great Depression and realize how lucky I was. As I got older, political, moral and philosophical discussions became the norm and we certainly didn’t always agree, but we would all be there to discuss.
This was the 60’s and 70’s when evening meals across America were a family priority, with everyone sitting at the table with the television off, where talk was the entertainment. Imagine today's family sitting at the table, television off, answering machine on, computers, Play Stations and smart phones off.
What would the family talk about? I look around today at the classic disconnect in families around the country. Kids eat when they can, Mom and Dad are busy with work and their social life, and there are many days when parents and children only see each other before bedtime -- if then.
It made me wonder how many of today's issues -- from violence to alcohol to drug abuse to technology addictions -- could be solved by bringing back family dinnertime?
Turns out, I'm not the only one who has wondered. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse survey demonstrated that a teen is seven times more likely to abuse alcohol/drugs when regular family dinners drop or stop.
Parental influence -- when the parents are there -- is alive and well in America. Consider this: When dinnertime is shared together as a family around the table, preschoolers have better language skills, adolescents perform better in school, and teenagers get more A's and B's.
William J. Doherty, Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota did a survey and found that more meal time at home was the single, strongest predictor of better achievement scores and fewer behavioral problems.
Meal time was more powerful than time spent in school, studying, church, playing sports or extracurricular activities. Also, these kids had a healthier diet and were less likely to be overweight.
Reviving the family dinner will do wonders for your own family as all members become connected again. Take an interest in each other, cheer accomplishments and give advice.
Teach values to your children, and let them see how serious you take your role as Mom and Dad. The evening family meal can be a "new" tradition that will catch on again, possibly even one that your children will pass on to their children. Then they will be telling their own children about the good ol' days.
I'm heading back to my Louisiana roots to visit my parents soon. When I called Mom to let her know my arrival day and time, without hesitation, she said, "Great! We'll see you at 6:00 for dinner!"
Dr. Dale Archer is a psychiatrist and frequent guest on "FoxNews.com Live." For more, visit his website: Dr.DaleArcher.com.