For past generations, the dinner table was the main gathering place at the end of the work/school day. What likely began primarily as a convenience, serving and clearing a meal once, has grown into one of the most important times of the day for the family. With the rise of after school activities, the convenience of fast food, erratic work hours and juggling multiple schedules, family dinner has become less of a priority. However, parents should be careful about losing this all important time of day with their children. There are multiple reasons why eating together as a family has more of an impact than you may think.
1- You Can Improve Communication With Your Kids – Dinner is an ideal time to catch up on everyone's day. The open discussion not only allows parents to keep tabs on what their children do on a day to day basis, but it also promotes healthy interaction between all family members. There will rarely be another time in your day when you are gathered as a family to just sit and catch up or talk about interests.
2- Take Control of Your Children's Physical Health – When you are presenting dinner, you are also presenting your kids with the opportunity to eat healthy and try new things. Childhood obesity is a growing problem and by presiding over the dinner table, you not only control what goes in your children's mouths, but also how much. Set a good example by offering a range of healthy foods. This is your best chance to influence their eating habits now and for life.
3 – Take Control of Your Kids Emotional Health – Use the time at the dinner table to assess how each of your children are doing. By eating together, you are not only able to monitor for eating disorders, a growing concern among teens as well as a sign of inner turmoil, but also lower the risk for emotional distress. Recent studies have shown that kids who frequently eat with their families show fewer signs of depression and engage less in risky behavior such as substance abuse and sexual activity. Children in this same study report that they more connected to their parents when they regularly eat dinner as a family.
4 – Give Grades a Boost – According to the CASA report, teens who eat with their families fewer than three times a week (20%) generally get C's or lower on their report cards. This is highly contrasted by the 9% of students who do eat with their families regularly and also report the same grades. Not only do family meals allow children time to interact with and practice adult conversation, but they also improve their vocabulary by picking up on how adults are using their words.
5 – Teach Good Habits – Dinner is an ideal time in a fairly informal setting to teach your children manners. Things such as using both a knife and fork, chewing with a closed mouth, asking politely for things to be passed to them and not interrupting others are skills that they will not necessarily be taught anywhere else. Many parents find that it is harder to change the ingrained habits of their older children than it is to take the time to teach them the basics while they are young.
In addition to these reasons, scheduled family dinner offers stability in an increasingly busy world. It is worth the time it takes to plan a meal, even if it isn't gourmet, and sit down as a family to reconnect all at the same time. If you have concerns about connecting with one of your children, call us at Liahona Academy for a free consultation to discuss programs and treatment options. 1-855-587-1416.
Tyler Clark is the Online Outreach Coordinator for Liahona Academy. Liahona Academy is located in Utah and specializes in behavioral management for teen boys.