Feel-Good Family Dinner: Myth or Reality?

Help us find out with The Family Dinner Survey.

Family dinner: the very words suggest the nostalgic image of happy families sitting around the table, sharing stories and building memories. In reality, family dinner is a lightening-rod issue and a source of guilt for many parents. While some families experience those camera-ready, feel-good moments at family dinner, at least sometimes, other people feel like family dinner is one more thing for working parents to feel guilty about. Which image is right? Is reality somewhere in between? What do real families think about family dinner anyway?

The Family Dinner Survey, fielded by my non-profit research organization, is designed to find out more about what people really think about family dinner. Take it here. (It is a short, completely confidential survey.)

At, we believe that family dinner can promote health, social and emotional benefits for kids and adults alike. (There are overwhelming amounts of research to back this claim.) But our heads aren't stuck in the sand. We know, from personal experience and from the stories of hundreds of families, that managing family dinner 5 or more nights a week can be a challenge. Very little research has been done, though, on the day-to-day struggles that families face in getting healthy meals on the table regularly. It's a good guess that time, money and the juggling of work, school and extracurricular activities are the biggest hurdles, but how do parents want support with these challenges? Most people do not want government intervention in their kitchens or dining rooms. They may want more nutritional guidance in the grocery store so that they can trust "healthy" food claims on the products they buy. Or maybe having the skills to cook a simple meal is the most pressing need? Should we bring back Home Economics or community cooking classes, as Kurt Michael Friese suggested here recently?

The Family Dinner Survey gets at these important issues and more. Do you value family dinner, warts and all, and jump through hoops to make it happen? Or is family dinner a waste of time or worse.... a tyranny of wills and another fight at the end of the day? What are the things that help you get the meal on the table? What are "the best" things about family dinner? What are your biggest stumbling blocks?

Take the Family Dinner Survey, whether you "do" family dinner or not, and let us know what you think.

The survey is completely confidential and the data will be aggregated to show trends in opinions, not any one person's opinion or experience.

Grace R. Freedman, Ph.D. is the founder and Executive Director of, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the health benefits of family meals. is committed to helping parents make regular family meals a priority and to better understanding the challenges parents face.