In the olden days, perhaps in your grandparents’ time, family meals were a given. The kids may have had play practice or a sporting event, but in general, the entire family gathered for dinner six to seven nights a week.
Nowadays, it’s likely both parents are working long hours outside the home, while the kids are enrolled in myriad activities that pull them and their parents in dozens of different ways: scouting, travel teams, homework, housework, volunteer work, chess club, meetings . . . it’s a wonder anyone has time for sleep, let alone family meals.
While nostalgia for “the gold ole’ days” is often misplaced—as a society we’ve made many advances in numerous areas since then—the practice of regular family meals may be one tradition that’s worth reviving.
- A Columbia University study found that teens who regularly shared a meal with their family were 40 percent more likely to get better grades (A’s and B’s), and improve their vocabulary and reading comprehension.
- They were also less likely to engage in such self-destructive behavior as smoking, drinking, or abuse of drugs.
- They also exhibited a lower incidence of depressive symptoms and suicidal thoughts.
- Another study found that adolescent girls who shared frequent family meals in a positive atmosphere were less likely to have eating disorders.
And yet a survey from the A.C. Nielsen Co. found that the average parent spends just 38.5 minutes a week in meaningful conversation with their kids.
Solution: rethinking scheduling
“Kids whose time is overly organized don’t have time to be kids and their family doesn’t have time to be a family,” says pediatrician Deb Lonzer of the Cleveland Clinic.
And frequently frenzied parents have a hard time being available to their children, as well.
If this sounds like your family, it may be time to reevaluate all the activities both you and your children are involved in. They may be worthwhile, but if they’re interfering with the valuable practice of everyone eating together regularly in a relaxed atmosphere, they could ultimately prove detrimental.
And to help facilitate stronger family bonds and encourage more in-depth communication, be sure to check out our innovative Family Table Time kits.
Here’s what you get in each kit:
- a detailed plan for conducting family meetings
- character-based conversation starters
- quick, easy, and healthy family recipes
- suggestions for fun physical activities families can do together
Try it free for four weeks and see the difference it can make!