Most parents know that family dinner is important. But, in today’s world, with work, children’s busy schedules, picky eaters and an overall shortage of time – statistics show that family dinner is just not panning out the way we would like:
- Americans are eating over 50% of their meals out
- 83% of Americans report eating family dinners less than they did growing up
- On any given day, only 30% of Americans ate dinner with all of the family members who live in their home
- 4 in 10 (44%) are eating with their core family three days a week or LESS.
This certainly was true at our house.
In my mind, it seemed we had most dinners together, but when I really stopped and thought about it – I realized we were actually only eating about 3 dinners at home together on any given week.
I guess that seemed like enough in my mind. But it turns out, when it comes to the benefits of family dinners – where the benefits really stack up is when you start talking about 5 or more meals together per week. In fact, teens who have 2 or less family meals per week are 3 times more likely to use marijuana, 2.5 times more likely to smoke cigarettes and 1.5 times more likely to drink alcohol.
As a mom, hearing those statistics is scary, but it is also very motivating.
Years ago, TK and I decided that family dinner needed to become a bigger priority at our house. We started to very actively carve out a fixed time in our day to prepare a quick meal, sit down at the table, and make an effort to eat together.
Our kids were becoming busy teens & we were all on the go. The only way to really connect on a regular basis with each other was over a meal.
Sometimes we’d all have a great time at dinner – laughing and sharing stories. Other days, it was quiet and quick. But, the practice was there.
We slowly went from our average of three times a week to an average of four and then of five. Today we eat about 90% of our dinners at home – together.
The beautiful thing is that it really has brought our family closer together. I can honestly say that every one of the statistics you hear out there – is absolutely true in our experience. There are so many amazing benefits of having a regular family dinner.
Here are just a few of the behaviors associated with children & teens who have more mealtimes at home:
- Fewer behavioral problems
- More open communication
- Enhanced child vocabulary development
- Sophisticated word usage
- Positive psychological adjustment
- Higher grades
- Better achievement scores
- Lower rates of alcohol use
- Lower rates of drug use
- Lower rates of early sexual behavior
- Less likely to develop eating disorders
- Lower rates of suicidal risk
- Less likely to use marijuana
- Less likely to smoke cigarettes
- Less likely to drink alcohol
- Report lower family stress & tension
- More able to confide in parent/s
- Less TV viewing
- Higher grade point average
- Fewer depressive symptoms
- More healthful dietary patterns
- Eat more fruits & vegetables
- Eat less saturated and trans fats
- Eat fewer fried foods & sodas
- Take in more vitamins and micronutrients
- Identify with own family culture
- More open about the details of their day
- Share more with meal setup, prep & cleanup
- Feel more connected
That’s 29 great reasons to make family dinner a top priority at your house, don’t you think?
The thing is….you don’t need 29 reasons.
You only need one.
So, what’s yours? What’s compelling enough to you that it would renew your commitment to making dinner time a bigger priority?
If you could use a little support — like free recipes, motivation, activities, conversation starters, and a little fun to get your family motivated and on board with you — we are getting ready to kick off a fun 30-day challenge to bring awareness to importance of family dinner, along with solutions to reduce the gap between what Americans want for their families and what they are actually delivering.
Reclaim Dinner will kick-start on September 24, 2012 in conjunction with Family Day: A Day to Eat Dinner with your Children. It’s totally free to participate. We just want to get everyone to have dinner together one more night. We’d LOVE for you to join us. There’s nothing like the energy of a group of people working together toward a common goal.
Sign up here: Reclaim Dinner
Are you going to reclaim dinner at your house? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.