Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Benefits of Family Dinner

Another day, another study showing the benefits of family dinners.

As it happens, it’s not news. By now everyone should know that children who have family dinner on a fairly regular basis do better than children who do not.

Effectively, participating in a group ritual confers a therapeutic benefit. The ritual provides structure, order, security and discipline. It allows parents to interact with their children and allows children to engage in conversation with adults.

The research shows that if you want your children to be well-behaved and to do better in school you do well to “insist” that they show up for family dinner.

The Daily Mail reports:

Psychologists who studied children aged six to eleven found they concentrated more at school, acquired better social skills and got into much less trouble as teens if they regularly took part in family meals.

It continues:

Although numerous studies have shown family meals can have a positive effect on adolescent behaviour, the latest research concentrated on the long-term effects on younger children.

Experts at the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University analysed the eating habits of more than 24,000 young children who took part in a major health study in 2007.

The US National Survey of Children’s Health recorded youngsters’ dietary patterns but also looked at behaviour, school performance and social skills.

The results, published in the Journal of Family Psychology, found more frequent family meals increased the odds of a child having positive social skills and being more engaged in school by around ten per cent.

At the same time, eating together reduced the risk of bad behaviour by about eight per cent.

But, what prevents children from participating in family dinners? Why is it necessary for parents to insist that their children be present?

For one, technology:

Family meals have been decimated by technology, with children often spending their entire time tapping away on their phone - if they can be removed from their bedroom to come to the table at all.

For another, disorganized households.

One wonders how many parents understand the value of family dinners and how many are sufficiently confident to impose the structure on their families.

In this as in many cases empathy is not enough.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

When I was growing up, our family had dinner together, effectively every weeknight. Sunday was absolutely non-negotiable. It was a non-issue... there was no discussion about it. That's what you did. And my sister and I both played three varsity sports all through high school. And I grew from the experience. My parents weren't perfect, and some of the dinner conversation (or, rather, inquisition) was torture. We learned about how to carry on a conversation, what manners are for, being interested in other people, etc. Most importantly, we learned to be a family. You choose your friends, you don't choose your family.