Q:

Our neighbors almost always have family dinners every night. It never seems to work out for us, as our kids have so many activities after school. Are we missing out on something important? --Few Family Meals

A:

Families need to have time together. It doesn't have to be dinnertime, even though this is probably the easiest time to be connected with each other. It could be at breakfast or lunch, or any other time the whole family is together. It should be a time when everyone can concentrate on talking to each other -- more than just joining together in an activity. To truly benefit family members, their time together needs to be consistent without any outside distractions like TV, tablets or cellphones.

A surprisingly large number of benefits occur for both children and adults who eat dinner together. They include:

  • -An opportunity to share valuable information.
  • -Learning family history through storytelling.
  • -Practice in being both listeners and speakers.
  • -Vocabulary expansion for children.
  • -Eating better, as they avoid fast food and consume more fruits and vegetables.
  • -Children have higher self-esteem.
  • -Reducing teens' chances of substance abuse or eating disorders.
  • -Parents and children being happier and more stress-free.
  • -Improving teens' grades.
  • -Giving families a feeling of closeness despite their busy lives.

Admittedly, eating dinner together is not the only way for families to accrue the above benefits; they also can come from quality parenting.

You can read more about having family dinners -- their benefits and practices -- online at www.shared-meals.com or at thefamilydinnerproject.org/resources/faq. A good book to read is Carol Archambeault's "The Shared-Meal Revolution: How to Reclaim Balance and Connection in a Fragmented World through Sharing Meals with Family and Friends."