Back to School Part II: The Family Meal

By Silver Dolphin Books on September 30, 2011

Now that school is back in session the family schedule can get hectic. Between homework, extra curricular activities, and the regular routine, it can sometimes feel that the family does not have enough time together. There are some things you can do to increase those bonding moments with your family; even those with the most hectic schedules! One of the best ways to keep your family connected is to have a set time for dinner every night—with the whole family. Although this may not be possible every solitary night, having dinner together as often as possible opens communication amongst family members.

Create rules for the dinner table. For example: All electronics off during dinnertime. This rule is for everyone. No cells phones, no television, and no computers allowed at the dinner table. It may be helpful to turn everything off during this special time together.

According to an article published by Washington State University, entitled Eat Better, Eat Together, research found that kids that ate dinner with their families more frequently had better school performance. The article said the following:

Family meals appear to give children an edge in the classroom. In a 1994 Louis Harris and Associates survey of 2000 high school seniors (15), students took a test to measure their academic ability and answered a list of personal questions. Students who regularly ate dinner with their families 4 or more times a week scored better than those who ate family dinners 3 or fewer times a week. These results crossed racial lines and were a greater indicator than whether the child was in a one- or two-parent family.

The article goes further to say that children in families that have regularly scheduled meals together turn out to be better adjusted teens:

Well-adjusted adolescents and frequent family meals are linked, according to psychologists Bowden and Zeisz (17). In a 1997 survey of 527 teens ages 12 to 18, the teens who were best adjusted ate a meal with an adult in their family an average of 5.4 days a week, compared to 3.3 days for teens who didn’t show good adjustment. The well-adjusted teens were less likely to do drugs or be depressed and were more motivated at school and had better relationships. The less well-adjusted teens were more likely to be involved with drugs, be depressed, exhibit difficulty getting along with others and have trouble in school. Adjustment was correlated more to shared meals than to any other factor including gender, age or family type. Bowden said that mealtimes were a sort of “marker” for other positive family attributes and seemed to play an important role in helping teens cope well with the stresses of adolescence.

The importance of eating together for the betterment of the family is evidenced by the article.  You can read the entirety of their findings here.

Everyone should have an opportunity to talk about their day, their plans for the week, problems or concerns, and important upcoming events. It is an opportunity for parents to find out what their kids are up to and who their friends are. It is also an opportunity to help kids problem-solve. This time should be a relaxing time. It is a time for parents to impart their wisdom and guidance to the children, a time for connection—not a time for discipline. These family times can build trust and keep families connected.

Do you have any family meal rituals that you do to connect your family?  We would love to hear your ideas!


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