Posted , updated Sep 29, 2005.
For many American families, shared mealtimes are less and less common. In a recent national study commissioned by the White House and the YMCA, one in four parents reported that their families eat together four or fewer times per week. In that same study, one in ten admitted that they eat only one or no meals per week with their children.
Yet most families feel that it is very important for families to eat together frequently. Children benefit emotionally and physically from eating meals together as a family. Mealtimes create and support family identity. A large national study of American teenagers found a strong link between regular family meals, academic success and positive psychological adjustment. In addition, rates of alcohol use, drug use, early sexual behavior, and suicidal risks are lower when families eat meals together. When parents and children eat together, they tend to eat healthier foods. Children eat more fruits, vegetables and dairy foods and less high fat, high sugar foods.
Mealtimes may provide a time and place for communication, relaxation and catching up on family news. Whether children are toddlers or teens, communication with parents is important. Here are some examples of conversation that can take place at the dinner table.
Conversation ideas: Something that makes me happy is…If I could live anywhere in the world, I would pick…I like my best friend because…I wish I could… I’m stressed about…I think I look like…My favorite story is…
Busy lifestyles and conflicting schedules make it hard to sit down together at mealtime. Families that work different shifts may find it more challenging to find time to eat together.
Watching television can interfere with family meals, also. Half of the families in a recent Gallop poll say they watch television during dinner.
The parent in charge of meal preparation may feel overwhelmed by the responsibility and differences in food preferences of family members.
Even though barriers exist, the many benefits may encourage families to increase the number of meals they share.
Here are some tips to help you find time to share a meal.
For a more detailed discussion of how family mealtimes affect the well-being of its members, click here or go to:
Register to rate articles and leave comments.
© Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois
University of Illinois Extension