The importance of family dinners

A family eating dinner together

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOTV) There has been a huge change in American culture in the last 50 to 100 years. Meals used to take long periods of time to prepare and involved many members of the family. Today, food is available anytime, nearly everywhere, and due to that access, our habits easily change.

Benefits of Family Dinners

According to a report done by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, children who eat at least five times a week with their family are at lower risk of developing poor eating habits, weight problems, are less likely to use alcohol or drugs, and tend to perform better academically than their peers who frequently eat alone or away from home. Additionally, youth who engage in more frequent family meals tend to have lower depressive symptoms.

Eating together is not just about food and nutrition. Children who eat regular family meals have positive family interaction, during which they learn social skills, including how to have conversations, use manners, serve others, listen, solve conflicts and compromise.

Guidelines for Meals

  • Try to have family meals three or more days a week.
  • Quality matters
    • Turn off TV and phones
    • Take time for conversation
  • Ask open-ended questions:
    • Tell me about your day, what did you do at school today, etc.
  • Ritualized conversations, thorns and roses, and buds
  • Avoid topics of conflict and save the difficult conversations for after dinner (homework, chores)
  • Many resources online for conversation starters
  • Take turns planning , preparing, cleaning up meals.
  • Create a theme for a meal, rotate the responsibility of organizing

Remember that the benefits can include family closeness and comfort. The simple act of regular family meals can provide your children with stability. Make dinner an event that lets your family know how important they are to each other.

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