10 Benefits of Family Meals --
So Much More than Food
Would you like an enjoyable, simple way to improve your communication with your kids and teens? That’s just one of the benefits of family meals.
Would you jump at the opportunity to give your children an academic edge, help your teenagers handle the stresses of adolescence, and lower the possibilities that they will use drugs or be depressed?
How about a simple way to improve your family’s nutrition, relationships with each other, and communication skills?
Family meals influence every one of these aspects of your child’s life positively!
When Harvard researchers conducted a long-term study to discover whether play, story time, participating in events with family members, or family dinners had a more positive impact on children’s healthy development, family dinners came out on top.
The authors of a fascinating paper published by Washington State University report that researchers have found that kids from 7 to 11 years old who did well on school achievement tests also "spent a large amount of time eating meals and snacks with their families."
Particularly intriguing in these findings is that they held across the board, regardless of whether their mothers were employed outside the home full-time, part-time, or not at all.
Eating four or more meals together also proved to be a more reliable predictor of scholastic achievement than whether the child lived with one or both parents.
What’s more, kids treasure that time with their families, according to research--even if they don’t show it.
Some of the more outstanding benefits of family meals show up in the lives of teens. These include lower incidence of risky behaviors such as smoking and taking drugs.
Here are some of the powerful benefits of family meals, according to research reviewed by Martha Marino and Sue Butkus of Washington State University.
10 Benefits of Family Meals
- Eating together provides time that kids can count on spending with their parents.
- Kids who share at least four meals with their families do better on achievement tests than those who eat three or fewer meals with their families.
- Kids' thinking skills and linguistic development improve. (This may be due to the longer conversations that tend to take place during family meals.)
- Family meals contribute to a child's healthy development even more than play or story time.
- Teens who eat more meals with their families are less likely to be depressed.
- Teenagers who share more family meals are less likely to take drugs.
- Eating more meals together also results in teens' being more motivated to learn.
- Teens who share more family meals experience better relationships with their families and friends.
- Kids who are in the habit of eating with their families eat more vegetables.
- Kids who share family meals drink less soda.
If you're out of practice, don't worry!
If you’re out of practice, family meals may seem awkward at first, but don’t let that discourage you.
And don’t allow mealtimes to degenerate into food battles. Your family won’t enjoy them much under those circumstances.
Also, if a conversation gets too intense for the dinner table, perhaps you could express your appreciation that your son or daughter is sharing how he or she feels about it, and suggest a mutually agreeable time after dinner to further explore the subject. (Just be sure to get back to it when you said you would!)
Like anything else, family meals will improve with practice.
The life-changing advantages are priceless, and more than worth the effort of overcoming the ever-present obstacles and making family meals happen.
The more often you eat together as a family, the more your kids will benefit, and the better emotional, mental, and physical health they will enjoy.
You'll love it too!
At family meals, parents can hear from their kids about their day and their concerns. Kids can hear from their parents, too. Parents can model good manners and polite conversation skills.
It’s a time to connect and stay in touch with each other. With all these benefits, what’s not to love about family meals?
Eat Better--Eat Together: Background: Research on Family Meals by Martha Marino and Sue Butkus