With the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, many of us are preparing for a big meal with our families. For some, Thanksgiving dinner is just a fancier version of their regular family dinners, i.e., more trimmings, an opportunity to remind each other of how thankful we are for family and friends, etc. For other families, however, it may be one of the few times that they actually sit at a table together as a family.
It is sad to say, but there has been a significant decline in the number of families who eat dinner together at a table. Busy work schedules, school events, sporting events, music lessons, etc., can make it difficult for families to find time to eat together at the dining room table. For many parents with hectic schedules, family mealtime may be sandwiches on the fly on the way to soccer practice.
I have fond memories of meals with my family as a child. This is not to say that we ate every meal at the table, but we did so the majority of the time. Sunday was always a big deal. Mom always had some sort of wonderful comfort food like creation cooking in the oven all day. It was heaven.
My husband and I made the decision when our children were very young that we would carry on this tradition with our children. Yes, I said tradition. I've written before about the benefits of traditions. While we don't always think about it in these terms, family meals at the dinner table constitute a family tradition.
I have long discussed the benefits of family mealtimes to the families with whom I have worked over the years, so I was pleased to see an article in Sunday's Parade Magazine sharing some research on this topic. I thought the data was interesting. Here's just a sampling of what the research has found:
- A study from the University of Minnesota indicated that teens who had regular meals with their parents had better grades and were less likely to be depressed.
- A study from Harvard reports that children who eat with their families are 15% less likely to be overweight.
- A study by Emory University indicate that preteens whose parents tell family stories at dinner have better self esteem and better peer relations during the adolescent years.
- Finally, a study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University indicated that teens who have two or fewer family dinners per week are more likely to smoke, drink and hang out with sexually active friends. In addition, 12 and 13 year olds who have few family dinners are six times more likely to have used marijuana.
Amazing what a little bit of time at the family table can prevent. To read the complete article by Lynn Schnurnberger, click here. TIME magazine also wrote an interesting article on the subject several years back. Here's the link.
Do you eat meals together as a family? If so, how often? Please share your thoughts, ideas and suggestions!