Did you know that sharing meal times as a family is good for kids? Family meal time is the glue that holds busy families together. The interaction that takes place over meal times keeps kids grounded and parents in touch with their kids' victories and struggles on a regular basis.
Conversations at meal time reap positive benefits. Recent studies suggest that families who "unplug" and gather together at meal times experience a positive impact on many childhood behaviors such as less substance abuse, reduced teen pregnancies and lower instances of childhood depression. In many cases, kids who eat dinner on a regular basis with their family also have higher self-esteem and above average grade point averages. Having regular conversations around the dinner table can help boost vocabulary and public speaking skills. Eating home cooked meals can also have a positive effect on childhood obesity. If breakfast works better for getting everyone around the table, there doesn't seem to be a magic meal time that reaps better benefits.
Sharing meal times promotes good health. Kids who come from families that don't eat meals together are at higher risk of having eating disorders and childhood obesity issues. Using food to cope with problems they don't otherwise have an outlet for can cause damaging effects. Kids who don't have standard times to converse with parents may be more at risk for gravitating to delinquent behaviors, including drug and alcohol use, delinquency in school, and teen depression.
Interaction versus eating. At the end of the day, the opportunity to impact kids' lives through sharing family meals has more to do with interaction at the table versus how many meals are shared. If a family sits quietly at the table, the advantages that can potentially be gained may be lost. The magic that happens when meals are shared is solely due to parents taking an active interest in the lives of their kids and taking time to be present in the moment and discuss the happenings in the day-to-day lives of their kids.
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Raising kids takes time and intention. Turning meal times into a safe haven to share updates can have a lasting effect on kids' lives. If there is a lull in the conversation, be prepared to share about your day, perhaps a funny story will get everyone laughing and help kids open up. If this is a new family tradition, don't expect everyone to be on board right away. Take the lead and be vulnerable. Kids want to have a safe place to share and they will follow your lead. Make meal times a time your family looks forward to each day.
ABOUT JENNIFER CHUNG
Jennifer Chung is a parenting expert and co-founder of Kinsights: part parenting community, part online health record. Kinsights provides parents with a safe place to seek answers to their questions while also helping them track their child's health information. Organize your child's growth and developmental milestones, immunizations, medications, allergies, and more. Connect with Kinsights at Kinsights.com to learn more and sign up. You also can follow them on Facebook/kinsights and Twitter (@kinsights).
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