There were six children in my family. Dinner times varied based on dad’s return home from work, but we all ate dinner together. Sunday morning was dad’s turn to cook. I remember “killer” apple pancakes for breakfast. When our parents passed on and furniture was divided, EVERY child wanted the dining room table. So many memories were made there.
Sixty years ago the average dinnertime was 90 minutes. Today it is less than 12. Numerous research studies confirm that the easiest way to build a stronger family and more resilient kids is simply eating meals together as a family. Studies show that when families eat 4 to 5 meals together each week, children do better in school. Children are also:
• Less likely to develop poor eating habits
• Eat more fruits and vegetables
• Less likely to have weight problems
• Less likely to use alcohol and other drugs
• And less likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors
In homes where families eat five or more meals together per week, children have a more positive view of the future and experience less depression than children who share fewer family meals. When children are young, eating family meals together boosts vocabulary as much or more than reading to children.
Despite the benefits, in the past 20 years the frequency of family dinners declined 33%. Other studies show that the average parent spends just 7 to 17 minutes per day communicating with their teenager. Yet in a Nielsen survey, 24% of teens wanted more frequent family dinners. Asking your children to help prepare the family meal increases family time and builds additional life skills.
We get it, you're busy. Nevertheless, finding time to share 4-5 weekly family meals pays HUGE dividends for our children. So set aside at least 30 minutes, turn off the TV, turn off the smartphones and catch up with your kids over dinner.
“Over the past 15 years researchers have confirmed what parents have known for a long time: sharing a family meal is good for the spirit, the brain and the health of all family members.”
- Dr. Anne Fishel