Does having family meals reduce risky behavior for teenagers?
Studies have proven that family meal time can reduce your teen from making bad choices. This is also the opportunity to discuss things like their digital lives as well as offline life. Let’s keep in mind, the consequences of cyberbullying (whether they are a victim of it – or they are someone that sent or received a sext) can be devastating. Your teen’s need to be constantly educated on the facts of digital citizenship today.
In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it’s often easier and more convenient for today’s families to grab an instant meal or a bag from a drive-through on the way to their respective activities than to sit down together for a family meal.
Still, there are so many reasons why families should be carving out time to spend together over a shared meal that the topic has been the subject of investigative news reports and scientific studies alike. Among those reasons are these ten, which may help to change your perspective on the family table.
- Reducing Obesity Rates – When everyone is sitting around the same table and the adults of the family are supervising food preparation, it’s easier to eliminate unhealthy foods filled with empty calories from kids’ diets. As a result, kids whose families share meals on a regular basis tend to have lower rates of childhood obesity.
- Encouraging Healthy Eating Habits – It’s easier to encourage healthy eating when kids aren’t faced with the temptation of a deep-fried chicken nugget while they’re being urged to eat a salad. Eating meals together means that everyone eats the same thing, which can also help turn picky kids into more adventurous eaters.
- Allowing Parents to Be Parents – Between the hours spent at school, attending various club meetings and practice for sports or arts, it’s easy to feel like other people are actively parenting your children, while you’re in charge of looking after them when they’re sleeping. Spending time around the family dinner table puts you back in the “Parent” seat, allowing you to once again resume an active role in your children’s lives.
- Reduced Likelihood of Substance Experimentation by Kids – Kids that live in a household where family dinners are shared on a regular basis are less likely to smoke cigarettes, experiment with drugs or drink alcohol than their peers who don’t.
- Better Academic Performance – When you’re able to actively talk with your children about their day at school, discuss areas in which they’re struggling and provide a support system, kids are more likely to enjoy increased academic performance than if you were less involved.
- Getting the Whole Family Involved – Working together as a family to put dinner on the table not only makes the process a quicker and less labor-intensive one, but also gives kids a sense of ownership over part of the meal and an area of responsibility to build character. Kids need to be responsible for something in order to avoid feelings of entitlement and a general lack of know-how; cooking a meal that you’ll later eat together is a great way to give them that sense of responsibility.
- Fostering Stronger Relationships – It’s difficult to build strong relationships when each member of the family is always attending other events and no one spends any time together. Getting to know your kids again, and allowing them to get to know one another, may be as simple as instituting a policy of sharing family dinners on a regular basis.
- More Time-Efficient – One of the most commonly cited reasons for parents not to cook is an assertion that they do not have the time. What most don’t stop to consider is that the amount of time spent driving to pick something up, trying to arrange a take-out order or waiting for a table in a crowded, loud restaurant is actually more than enough to prepare and share a high-quality meal at home.
- Saving Money on Meals – When every meal you eat comes from a take-out menu or a drive-through window, you may not realize how much money your family is throwing away in comparison to simply cooking and sharing meals at home. All other benefits aside, simple economic efficiency is a compelling reason to establish a family dinner ritual.
- Teaching Kids About Sustainable Eating – As the focus on green living and eco-friendly habits grows stronger, it’s important that parents teach their children how to live and eat sustainably. What better time to share this information than over the dinner table? Family dinner is an ideal opportunity for the discussion of sustainable agriculture, even if it’s just to explain where vegetables come from to smaller children.
What will you discuss?
Besides the obvious of asking your teen how their day was, it is important to find out how their cyber-life is going.
Common Sense Media and Family Dinner Project put together a great list of conversation starters.