With the endless demands of work, school, errands, housework and extracurricular activities, it can be difficult for family members to find time to sit down, relax and talk to each other. Studies have found that regular family dinners can contribute to many positive outcomes and prevent negative ones.
Sharing Family Meals Can Help Kids Academically
Eating dinner together offers family members an opportunity to engage in conversation about things going on in their lives, current events, as well as their hopes and plans for the future. The wide array of topics that may come up at the dinner table on any given evening can help children learn new words and ideas they may not have encountered in books or at school. While a broad vocabulary can help kids learn to read and express themselves, learning about new topics can keep them actively engaged in school, which will go a long way toward promoting academic achievement.
Eating Together Can Establish Healthy Nutritional Habits
Parents often put a good deal of time and planning into meals that the entire family will share, with a focus on nutrition and variety. When kids eat meals with their families, not only are they exposed to new foods, they also tend to consume more fruits and vegetables than they would if they ate fast food or hastily prepared meals. If children help prepare dinner, they’re more likely to be open to the idea of trying unfamiliar foods. When kids grow up and go off to college or live on their own, they’ll be more inclined to choose healthy foods and less likely to become overweight or obese.
Family Dinners Can Help Kids Cope With Stress in Healthy Ways
Sharing meals offers many social benefits. When family members sit down and eat together, free from the distractions of the television, cellphones and video games, they can actively engage, listen to what’s going on in each other’s lives and offer support, advice and empathy. These types of interactions can help children deal with stress at school related to academics and bullying, as well as problems and concerns in other areas of their lives. Knowing that they have the support of family members helps kids avoid harmful behaviors, such as substance abuse and eating disorders. Children who share regular family meals are less likely to become sexually active, depressed, or suicidal.
Make Dinnertime a Positive Experience
The atmosphere at the dinner table is much more important than the food served. No one will enjoy mealtimes if they’re associated with bickering, teasing, name-calling and criticism, but all family members will benefit from opportunities to express themselves and to share their joys, successes, doubts and worries in a supportive environment. The more often families eat dinner together, the greater the long-term benefits.