Regularly eating meals – especially dinner – with your kids will do wonders for their self-worth, health, vocabulary, resilience, and academic performance. It also reduces the likelihood they’ll abuse substances, become pregnant, or suffer from depression. And if your kids do go through a touch patch, they’re recover faster.
So, you know, there are a few good reasons to plunk your butts down and share a meal with your kids – regularly. And if you can’t do dinner, do breakfast.
Also, we should add these are meals shared at home and screen-free (no TV, no smartphones, just good old-fashioned eating and chatting). In fact, kids who eat with a TV are more likely to be overweight by the third grade.
Benefits of Family Dining are Overwhelming
OK, so why is it so important to eat dinner with your kids?
Happier Relationships – Kids and parents who regularly dine together report higher levels of happiness, stronger relationships with each other, and lower rates of depression.
Self-Esteem – Family dining tells kids that they matter – that mom and dad are dedicated to taking time to listen and learn about their day. This is especially important in an era when so many kids feel cut off and disconnected from the world around them.
Vocabulary – Kids who regularly engage in dinnertime conversation are exposed to a wide variety of words that they, in turn, can experiment with as they listen to and then share their own stories. Richer vocabularies enable kids to better articulate themselves (improved self-esteem) and perform well in school.
Academics – In fact, research shows that kids who eat 5-7 meals per week with their families are twice as likely to receive A’s in school. Conversely, a global analysis found that kids who don’t eat with their families are far more likely to perform poorly and suffer attendance problems.
Health – Eating at home almost always is healthier than eating out. But for kids this is especially true, with research showing kids who dine with their families are more likely to consume fruits and vegetables as well as fewer soft drinks and fried foods. This translates into lower rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, etc. Kind of important in an era with runaway childhood diabetes, viruses that attack fat cells, etc.
Behavior – There is a ton of evidence showing that kids who regularly dine at home with their families are less likely to smoke, abuse drugs and alcohol, engage in risky sexual activities, or experience depressive or suicidal thoughts. Furthermore, kids who experiencing difficult times bounce back faster and more easily when they regularly dine with their families.
There’s more research on the topic – far more than we can report here. But suffice it to say that regular dining with your kids matters, a lot. Yes, it can be difficult to find the time. But even simple meals, shared, can make an enormous difference in the lives of your children.