I read on Mama’s Moon (Monday Morning Munchies) that this week is National Eat Dinner Together Week. National Eat Dinner Together Week was inaugurated in 1996 by America’s Pork Producers and the National Pork Board. Despite the meaty sponsor, even vegetarians can participate in this (hopefully) worthy venture.
I started out researching this post thinking I could cite one, or maybe two studies and have the information all there for you. But, apparently there are many studies that each contribute a few small aspects to the big picture.
Being a terminal nerd, I hate it when an article says “studies say…” without giving a citation. What I learned in one hour of research however, is that if I wanted to spend an entire year on this post (which I can assure you, I don’t) I could.
So this time I shall just have to overcome my natural nerdy tendencies and simply say, here are five benefits of kids and parents / parent eating dinner together at least five times per week. It all makes logical sense to me:
1) Better nutrition. In most cases, kids eat better at home (less fast food and junk). Plus they learn better dietary habits.
2) Kids do better in school and are less likely to use drugs and alcohol (for the whole study, click here).
3) Family dinner creates an automatic “check-in” time. Kids must be home and available to talk about their day.
4) Dinnertime conversation helps with language skills (and, on a personal note, I would have to add – table manners, an important, but often overlooked skill these days).
5) Spending time together as a family creates happy memories (hopefully!) and family bonding.
On the flip side: If your family is really dysfunctional, studies show that perhaps family mealtimes might not be so beneficial.
Some good advice for everyone, whether dysfunctional or not, is to focus on open-ended questions and not discuss super sensitive topics at the table. If you ask an open-ended question it is always very telling to see where kids will take it, and can lead to some valuable exchanges of information.
Of course it easy for me, mother of three children age 7 and under to pontificate on the virtues of family meals. Those of you with active teenagers may be wondering how to fit family meals in along with sports, cheerleading, play practice, dance, music and whatever else kids do these days.
I have my own views on the drawbacks of overscheduling children’s lives, but since my children are so young, it is hard for me to provide much practical advice on how to avoid this all-to-common phenomenon. If anyone has successfully managed to escape the vicious cycle of teen activities, please feel free to speak up in the comments or an email. I am eager to take notes for the future!
Some links for further information:
Thanks to morguefile.com and photographer cohdra for this photo.