Let’s face it, gathering the family around the dinner table can be a bit of a hassle sometimes. Between work, school, extracurricular activities, and all the other stuff we’ve got going on, it can be tough to find the time and energy to cook up a meal and sit down together. But even though it can be a challenge, making the effort to have regular family dinners is totally worth it. Here are a few reasons why:
First and foremost, family dinners provide a chance for families to connect and communicate with each other. In today’s fast-paced, technology-filled world, it’s super easy for family members to go hours or even days without having a real conversation. But when everyone sits down to eat together, it’s a chance to check in with each other and chat about what’s going on in each other’s lives. It’s also an opportunity for parents to model good communication skills and encourage their kids to express their thoughts and feelings in a respectful way.
Family dinners also yield stronger family bonds. Whether you’re talking about your day, sharing funny stories, or just enjoying each other’s company, the time you spend together at the table can be super meaningful. And because family dinners are a regular thing, they can become a tradition that brings everyone together and helps to strengthen the family bond. It’s a lot easier to have the tough life conversations that are inevitably required of parents (especially once kids enter the teen years) if a family culture of open, regular conversation is established from the beginning.
In addition to the social and emotional benefits, there are also some practical reasons why family dinners are important. For one thing, eating together as a family can help promote healthier eating habits and healthier lifestyles. When everyone sits down to eat the same meal, it’s easier for parents to make sure their kids are getting a well-rounded, nutritious diet. It’s also a chance for parents to model healthy eating habits and encourage their kids to try new foods and be mindful of the way what they eat impacts their health and well-being.
Research has also shown that kids who eat regular family dinners tend to have better academic outcomes. Kids who eat with their families tend to get better grades, have higher test scores, and be more likely to graduate from high school. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Minnesota, found that adolescents who ate regular family dinners (defined as 5-7 dinners per week) had significantly higher grades, higher self-esteem, and lower levels of risky behaviors (such as smoking and binge drinking) compared to those who ate fewer family dinners.
Other studies have also found a positive relationship between family dinners and academic outcomes in children and adolescents. For example, a 2013 review of the literature by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University found that children and adolescents who eat regular family dinners have better grades, higher test scores, and are more likely to graduate from high school. Those are some pretty impressive outcomes!
Of course, it’s not always possible to sit down to a fancy family dinner every night. But even having dinner together a few times a week can have a positive impact on your family. And it doesn’t have to be a fancy affair – a simple meal of grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup can be just as meaningful as a home-cooked feast. If you feel like you don’t have a good family meal culture in your home now, it’s never too late to change! We’ve even written a book that helps parents up their dinner conversation game to get the lines of meaningful family communication flowing.
So next time you’re tempted to skip the family dinner in favor of takeout or drive-thru in front of the TV, think about the benefits of taking a few extra minutes to sit down and eat together. Not only will it nourish your bodies, it will also nourish your relationships and create lasting memories.