5 Reasons Family Dinners Are Still Important

5 Reasons Family Dinners Are Still Important

Sitting down to a family meal each day is the single best thing you can do as a parent.

By: Judy Koutsky

Yes, you’re busy. And your kids are busy. And your spouse is busy. But according to a study done by Cornell University, your children are less likely to be overweight, less likely to engage in disordered eating, AND more likely to choose healthier foods if they eat their meals with their family. Need other reasons to eat dinner together? Read on.

Why are family meals so important?

1. The Cornell study showed that the routine of family meals can generate feelings of closeness and comfort -- so if a problem arises at school, your child is more likely to talk to you about it because of the comfort level already established.

2. Family meals are one of the few times for kids to communicate with their parents without other distractions (like driving to school or waiting for a soccer match to start). This gives parents the chance to really get to know what’s going on.

3. Meal time together is a great way to practice etiquette and manners. Starting at a young age, kids can learn how to put their napkin in their lap, handle utensils properly, keep elbows off the table, and say "please" and "thank you" regularly.

4. Giving everyone at the table a chance to talk not only teaches good listening skills, but it exposes kids to adult vocabulary (think SAT words) and makes kids feel important and valued.


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5. According to a recent study by Columbia University, teens who eat with their families are more likely to perform better academically and less likely to smoke or drink.

Getting started:

  • Try to eat at least three meals together each week. If it’s too hard with work, after-school activities, and other commitments, try for morning breakfasts or weekend lunches.
  • Turn off screens. Cell phones, iPads, and other electronics should be left in another room. Family meal time is for talking.

More from P&G everyday: Too Busy for Family Dinner? Try Family Breakfast Instead

The importance of family meals cannot be overstated. “One of the simplest and most effective ways for parents to be engaged in their teens’ lives is by having frequent family dinners,” said Joseph A. Califano Jr., former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. “If I could wave a magic wand, I would make sure that every child in America had dinner with his or her parents at least five times a week.” said Califano. “There is no more important thing a parent can do.”

Are family meals a priority in your home?

Judy Koutsky is the former Editorial Director of KIWI magazine, a green parenting publication. She was also Executive Editor of Parenting.com, AOL Parent and BabyTalk.com. Follow her on Twitter @JudyKoutsky.

Image ©iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages

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