By Davi Stein-Kiley, Courier & Press, Sept. 27, 2016 –
The beginning of the new school years marks the opportunity to set new goals for your family.
As a counselor, I have often encouraged parents to assess the needs of each young person in the family and help create environments and experiences that will help that child grow throughout that year. I’ve also encouraged parents to take stock of each season and look for new ideas that will build family together time, supporting family harmony.
There is value in reflecting and planning. Unfortunately, these steps often get overtaken by our hijacked family schedules due to heavy involvement in activities. I would encourage you to consider family experiences with fresh eyes.
If there was just one thing you could do to help your kids, would you do it? Truthfully, there is one important lifestyle habit that could be integrated every day to the benefit of everyone in the family, and it is easily within our grasp.
The answer is simple: Have family dinner time at least five times a week. Safeguard the time. Maintain it as a divine appointment.
During the last 22 years, thousands of American teens have been surveyed through the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA Columbia). The results are very compelling and readily overlooked by our manic interest in helping kids get ahead in whatever endeavor they undertake.
But consider these outcomes:Teens who have dinner three times a week or less with their families as compared with peers who have dinner five times or more with their families are:
- Nearly three times likelier to say it is OK for a teen their age to use marijuana.
- 3.5 times likelier to say it’s OK for teens their age to get drunk.
Favorable attitudes toward drug and alcohol use are a key risk factor for teens. Family meal time diminishes the risk greatly.
But what about mental health concerns? The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that young people who engage in family meals have better socialization, and meal time enhances their mental health. As young people experience better relationships, their stress is diminished.
Another study in JAMA reported that students who have regular family mealtimes bounce back better from the impact of cyberbullying.
Young children also build vocabulary and ability to discuss topics when the family meal is present. Anne Fishel, the co-founder of the Family Dinner Project at Harvard, notes that young children learn as many as 1000 uncommon words at meal time compared to 143 from parents reading story books aloud.
The Journal of Marriage and Family additionally reports that children who spend more time in family meals (and getting adequate sleep) have better results academically.
Family mealtimes have vast importance in the life of our kids. Get started today with some food, fun and conversations that will have lasting impact.
Sept. 26 is National Eat Dinner with your Family Day, and Youth First, Inc. is proud to celebrate this event with our community.
For more information about family dinners see thefamilydinnerproject.org.