Between playdates, after-school activities, late work meetings, and generally hectic days, it seems practically impossible to come together as a family for dinner. We are just too busy and overscheduled to make time for family meals, but according to numerous significant studies, making time for family dinner (at least once or twice a week!) makes a big difference in your children’s wellbeing. Hard to swallow? We break it down for you, making family dinner easy to digest.
Reason #1: Kids Become Confident
A study done at The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA) concluded that teenagers who participate in regular family dinners are more content and more likely to forge and maintain positive peer friendships. Additional studies have revealed similar results, explaining that family dinners help build strong familial ties and high-level communication skills creating a positive model for children to emulate in their peer to peer relationships.
Reason # 2: Kids Become Better Readers
Does that sound far-fetched? A study published in 2006 and conducted by Dr. Catherine Snow at Harvard University concluded that the conversations and complex discourse that occur around the family table play a critically positive role in the development of a child’s language skills. In fact, Dr. Snow found that family dinner conversations have an even more significant effect on a child’s language skills than reading to him.
Using 65 test subjects over a period of 15 years, Dr, Snow and her team found that family dinners significantly helped her young test subjects acquire important linguistic skills and build their vocabularies, making the kids more avid readers. The domino effect continues, as avid readers tend to be better students.
Reason #3: Kids are Less Likely to Abuse Substances
A study conducted at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital found that children who eat dinner regularly with their families are less likely to take drugs or suffer from depression than kids who don’t. Dr. Blake Bowden, the leader of this study, assembled a pool of 527 teenagers and after careful research, he concluded those who ate dinner with their families reported better mental health and were considered better-adjusted than their peers.
Reason #4: Kids Develop Healthy Eating Habits
A study published in the Journal of American Dietetic Association researched the effects of family dinners on 5,000 middle and high school students. Dianne Neumark-Sztainer and her colleagues at the University of Minnesota found a dramatic correlation between family mealtime and positive eating habits in kids. These kids were less likely to be obese, consumed more nutrient-rich produce, were less likely to suffer from eating disorders as teenagers, and took in more vitamins and nutrients daily.
Reason #5: Kids (and You!) are Less Likely to be Stressed
In 2008, researchers at Brigham Young studied working moms who scheduled regular family dinners. The research concluded that these moms were less stressed than their colleagues who didn’t eat with their families; family dinners helped reduce tension and mental strain. It’s not a far cry to conclude that kids of relaxed parents tend to be less stressed, too!