There’s a lot of talk about the benefits of family dinners, but what exactly are those benefits?
Many studies have linked family dinners with a wide-range of benefits, including lower rates of obesity, better academic performance, and even increased resilience against bullying. Dinnertime is also a perfect opportunity to catch up with your kids and talk over the day, and get closer to each other as you strengthen your relationship. Unwinding over a meal after a busy day at work and at school is a perfect time to allow kids to talk about what’s on their minds.
When you consider how many positive outcomes are associated with something as ordinary as having dinner with your kids, it becomes clear that this seemingly simple activity is one of the most important things families can do together.
Here are just some of the many ways regular family dinners can have a positive effect on your child’s development and behavior:
1. Better health and nutrition
Research has shown that when kids regularly eat dinner with their families, they will be more likely to have healthy eating habits and less likely to be obese.
Kids whose parents eat dinner with them regularly have these traits:
- Are less likely to be overweight
- Tend to eat more healthy foods such as vegetables and fruits and drink less soda
- Are more likely to continue to eat a healthier diet when they grow up and make their own choices
2. Strong mental, social, and emotional skills
Studies have shown that kids who regularly eat dinner with parents experience psychological and emotional benefits such as:
- Higher self-esteem and resilience
- More positive family interactions
- Lower rates of substance abuse
- Lower risk of teen pregnancy
- Lower rates of depression
- Better body image and reduced risk of developing an eating disorder
- Better social and emotional health (One study found that kids who have regular family routines such as eating dinner, reading, or playing together are more likely to have empathy, understand emotions, and form positive relationships with others, among other social and emotional health factors.)
3. Better performance in school and better behavior
Kids who eat with their parents regularly have been shown to perform better academically. Specifically, kids who regularly ate family dinners had the following traits:
- Higher grades
- Reduced risk for delinquency
- Ability to have complex conversations
- Stronger vocabulary skills and higher reading scores
While nothing we do as parents can guarantee that our kids will turn out to be happy, healthy, kind, and well-adjusted individuals, it’s clear that making family dinners a regular part of our daily schedules is a great way to boost kids’ chances of being healthier physically, mentally, and even emotionally.