08 Nov How Family Meals Can Improve Your Child’s Well Being
How often does your family eat a meal together? When you eat your meals, are you standing up, seated at the table, or in front of a screen?
Maybe you haven’t thought very much about the answers to those questions. American parents work hard. Most families need two incomes to make ends meet.
It’s understandable when mealtimes end up being rushed or turn into “chill time” in front of a screen.
However, did you know there are terrific benefits to eating a family meal together several times a week? Just one simple change could make all the difference in your child’s life.
What Makes Family Meals So Important?
Every good parent knows there’s some connection between family togetherness and well-being for the whole family. That’s why there can be so much angst when you feel like you, as a parent, aren’t doing enough to promote togetherness.
But the link is quantifiable.
Did you know that children who eat a meal together with the family five or more times per week are less likely to suffer from mental disorders and obesity?
According to the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, frequent family meals in themselves contribute to emotional well-being in children that translates to many positive health and mental health outcomes.
Family meals lower depression and they contribute to helping children make better food choices and stay in a healthy weight range. This weight benefit extends to adults who eat family meals and not just kids, according to a Cornell University study.
Other research says the same thing. With each added family meal, kids are more likely to have higher self-esteem, exhibit more trusting, and helpful behaviors and have better relationships with their parents.
In addition, they show better academic performance and have bigger vocabularies!
Results for Teens
If you have little kids at home right now and you are struggling with making ends meet, trying to put healthy food on the table, wrangling little kids at dinner time and sitting down without feeling completely frazzled; take heart!
The benefits for teenagers who have regular family dinners get even more pronounced.
A study in 2010 out of Columbia University showed that teens that have family meals together at least 5-7 times per week were less likely to engage in risky behaviors than those who had less than three family meals.
The fewer family dinners, the more risk was associated with alcohol, tobacco and marijuana use in teens – in some cases more than double the risk.
Other studies have shown that, along with being able to make healthier food choices and maintain a lower BMI, adolescent girls who ate family meals were less likely to develop eating disorders.
Family Meal Strategies
Perhaps you are convinced that family meals together are essential, but you are not sure how to start making that happen.
Sometimes there’s a bit of a learning curve. The good news is that the benefits associated with family meals don’t depend on having every meal together, every day.
The benefits start at just five meals together per week! Notice I didn’t say dinners?
Maybe for your family, it isn’t feasible to sit down to a family dinner every night. It doesn’t matter what meal you eat together, just that you eat it together regularly. If you have to start with cereal and toast at breakfast, make it a plan and stick to it!
Bringing it Home
Family meals together are more important than you might have thought. Regular times of family togetherness contribute to the overall health and well-being of your children at any age. Additionally, the benefits increase as they get older and with the more meals they eat together.
So be encouraged! Put down your phone and sit down with your kids to a meal. If you take the time to eat and talk together today, you and your children will reap the benefits for many years to come.