Four surprising benefits of family dinners

It can be easy for quality family dinners to fall off the priority list amongst busy schedules and days which just don’t seem to contain enough hours. But here are four reasons why it’s worth putting them back onto that list. 

Finding quality time to spend together can be difficult for busy families. Children may find themselves distracted by homework, television, smart phones, or computer games; and parents can find it difficult to balance busy work and school schedules with ‘down time’. 
 
By carving out time to switch off technology and engage with your family over a meal, you could be helping them in more ways than you realise.
 
1) Children who have dinner with their parents 5 or more days per week are more likely to have high-quality relationships with their parents. A survey of more than 1,000 teenagers found that as the quality of a teenager’s relationship with their parents declines, the more likely they are to use marijuana, smoke cigarettes, or drink alcohol.
 
2) Children who have dinner with their parents 5 or more days per week are less likely to be involved in drug and substance abuse compared to those who eat dinner with their parents less often. A growing body of research suggests that parents’ expectations, including a strong disapproval of substance abuse, can influence a teen’s behaviour. Substance abuse has also been linked to teenagers experiencing high levels of stress. Family dinners can offer a great opportunity to discuss, and help reduce the risk of adverse health and wellbeing, due to these issues and concerns.
Young girls eating dinner

3) Students who do not regularly eat with their parents are significantly more likely to be truant at school. A study of more than half a million students across 65 countries and economies reported that almost one in five children surveyed (18%) had skipped at least one class in the past fortnight. However, when parents and teachers helped nurture a student’s engagement with school, they were more likely to choose to attend classes. 

4) Children who eat dinner together with the family are more likely to develop healthy eating habits. Research suggests that children who had regular family dinners when they were younger, ate more fruit and vegetables later in life. For parents, one way of positively influencing a child’s habits is to find a balance between being responsive to their preferences, giving them control of what they eat, and guiding them towards healthy dinner options.

The word ‘families’ doesn’t have to always mean mum, dad, and kids. It may also be mum and daughter; dad and son; grandpa, grandpa’s carer and grand-daughter; two mums; or even just a siblings’ catch-up. While dinner time may just feel like just another task to tick off the busy day’s to-do list, why not try to make it something you can all enjoy.

Being part of a family means being part of a team. Like great teams, families are at their best when they connect, communicate and support each other.

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