Family Mealtimes

What is dinnertime like in your home? Is it convenient for family members to heat up their own meal in the microwave and then retreat to their own corners of the house? For many families, eating dinner together has become a lost art.

Why Are Family Mealtimes Important?

Parental influence and involvement is an impor­tant tool in preventing substance abuse and health problems. Regularly sitting down for a meal with your children is one way to connect with them and be involved with what is happening in their lives. You will be more likely to hear about a serious problem and your kids will have an opportunity hear you express that you are proud of them.

According to the American Dietetic Association, by eating with your children, it is more likely that meals will be healthier and more bal­anced.
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University found that compared to teens that have frequent family dinners, those who rarely have family dinners are three-and-a-half times more likely to have abused prescription drugs or an illegal drug other than marijuana.
The University of Minnesota School of Public Health found that girls who have five or more meals a week with their families are one-third less likely to develop unhealthy eating habits, which can range from skipping meals to full-fledged anorexia or abusing diet pills.

What Should We Talk About?

  • Ask everyone to share their favorite part or biggest challenge of the day
  • Plan and then let the kids pick tasks for the next day’s menu, prepara­tion, and cleanup
  • Exchange memories about your favorite family pastimes
  • Discuss an activity the family can do together and then put it on the calendar
  • Talk with your children about a book they are reading or a movie they have seen. It might turn into a family book club or a regular movie and popcorn night
  • Ask the kids about their classes, homework, teachers, and upcoming assignments. Find out if they would like your help or want to brainstorm on an assignment

This is time for listening to each other, sharing the day’s stories, and nurturing the family connection. The benefits of eating together will last long after your meal ends, especially if you make family mealtimes a regular activity.