Family Meal Times Make the Difference!

Life gets busy! Between late meetings and fast-approaching deadlines, after-school clubs and team practices, it can be tough to get some face time with your family. Parents leave take-out menus on the dining room table and kids get accustomed to grab n’ go meals. With so many commitments, it’s no small wonder that family meal times have fallen by the wayside.

So what’s the big deal? Is it really worth all the effort of rearranging schedules, rescheduling meetings, and even canceling certain appointments just to get everyone around the dinner table? According to research conducted by CASA, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, it could make all the difference in the lives of your children. Did you know that the more often children and teens eat dinner with their families, the less likely they are to smoke, drink, and use drugs? And that’s not all! Children and teens who have frequent family dinners (5-7 dinners per week):

• Are at half the risk for substance abuse compared to teens who dine with their families infrequently.
• Are less likely to have friends or classmates who use illicit drugs or abuse prescription drugs.
• Have lower levels of tension and stress at home.
• Are more likely to say their parents are proud of them.
• Are likelier to say they can confide in their parents.
• Are likelier to get better grades in school.
• Are more likely to be emotionally content and have positive peer relationships.
• Have healthier eating habits.
• Are at lower risk for thoughts of suicide.
• Are less likely to try marijuana or have friends who use marijuana.

With statistics like this, it’s hard to deny the staggering impact family meals have upon our children. And believe it or not, 24% of teens desire more frequent family dinners! And this number increases to 52% amongst teens who have fewer than three dinners with their families in a typical week. So what’s stopping you?

Though rearranging full schedules can seem a daunting task, your family will reap the benefits both in the short and long term!
By Maureen Boswell, RD, CSO, CD, CDE, ASCM HFS

“Parents make up a child’s entire universe.” –Mister Rogers

Data taken from The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse
“The Importance of Family Dinners II”, September 2005