Family Matters, And So Do Family Routines

Dr. Cindy Haines Health Guide
  • I am a mom, so I know maternal guilt. I know that feeling of falling short when it comes to "doing for" my kids.


    Yet I also have this growing sense that the more I "do for" my kids, the less I help them. And "more" in terms of more stuff/more distraction/more appeasement isn’t helping at all, but possibly even harming. On the flip side, it's actually in doing more with my kids, as well as in allowing the freedom and opportunity to do less, that I really help them.


    In my faith, it is the season of Lent. This past weekend being the first weekend in Lent, I decided it would be a good idea to hold off on any social dates for our family and our kids. This meant no "playdates."  In fact, we turned down some pretty enticing offers for ice skating and sleepovers. Yes, I felt guilty. Was I doing the right thing? Wouldn't this peer interaction be better? Was I depriving my kids?

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    Still, we held to the plan of focusing on being together, eating our meals at home - meals that were thoughtfully and lovingly prepared, and meals that were rich with nourishing conversations. The days revolved around what we could do here at home, enjoying our time together with everyday amenities and imagination. Capture the flag, "see who doesn't talk the longest," and cleaning rooms(!) were all part of the spontaneous equation.


    I anticipated some push-back and I think I may have also anticipated some bad moods and "I'm boreds." But as I write this upon conclusion of the weekend: I have to say that it was one of the most peaceful weekends we've had in a while. My kids genuinely got along with each other (I think this happens more often when that's the only option) and they found lots of things to do. We had time to focus on conversation and theological inquiry, connecting with each other in a more meaningful way, and I felt good and healthy about the whole thing.


    A recent study caught my eye, as reinforcement of this notion of family routine as support for health and wholeness. We know that family meals promote healthy eating patterns; this new research suggests that family routines (including meals) can promote better social-emotional health in formative stages.


    The study published in the February/March issue of the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics followed preschool children who participated in family dinners at least five days a week; reading, storytelling, or singing at least three times per week; and play at least a few times per week. The researchers found greater odds of having high social-emotional health for each additional routine in which a child participated, although the reading link was not statistically significant.


    While this is motivating research to me, I am far from congratulating myself on having all the answers to better health and wholeness.  I use this recent experience of mine and the emerging mind-body and community connections in health to help guide me ever forward. Striving to first do no harm and striving to move toward better whole health: one family, one community at a time.


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    Dr. Cindy Haines is a 70.3 yogi dedicated to the quest for better health via self-empowerment. For even more tips on how to get better health and need the health care system less, check out: The New Prescription: How to Get the Best Health Care in a Broken System by Dr. Cynthia D. Haines, M.D. (Dr. Cindy Haines) and Eric Metcalf, M.P.H. This is a book about getting what you really want: better health on your own terms. More medical care doesn’t mean better health. Dr. Haines and Metcalf reveal some of the most egregious problems with a medical system gone awry, opening readers’ eyes to how to better navigate the changes underway. Using solid research, insiders’ insights, and patient anecdotes, they offer cost-effective and potentially life-saving ways to get more out of health care while using less of it.

Published On: March 10, 2014