|Families That Dine Together, Stay Together|
|Written by Shilo Urban|
A new ten-year study from The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University shows that children who eat meals with their families frequently (five times per week or more) are half as likely to try marijuana or smoke cigarettes as their friends who rarely get to sit down and dine with the fam.
While this seems like common sense, it may be a much-needed wake up call for parents with busy lives who have not made family mealtime a priority. Only half of Americans say that they eat meals with their families at all; for adults the impact is minimized but children desperately need the routine and structure which not only feeds the body, but the mind and soul as well.
Family meals have many other benefits besides keeping kids on the straight and narrow:
Most of all, providing healthy meals together on a regular basis shows children that they are cared for on one of the most basic levels: sustenance. If children are routinely served non-nutritious junk food in the car, bowls of cereal alone by the TV or worse – nothing at all – they will begin to feel that no one really cares about them (who could blame them?). Childhood obesity can also result, which eventually translates into a host of adult health problems.
How many meals must a family spend together to reap the positive effects as shown in the study? At least five times per week. Once the family dinner frequency drops to less than three times per week, researchers saw a huge spike in risky behavior of the children.
Providing a healthy meal at least five times a week has never been easy, but with the advent of modern work schedules and two-income households, making time for the family dinner is more difficult than ever. However, it is also more important than ever, for your children’s future health might depend on it. Eating meals together is a great way to stop behavior problems before they start.
Good families don’t just happen – they are cultivated, like a garden. Just like a garden, your family needs regular food, water and emotional sunshine, and family dinners help to provide all three. Here are some tips to get on family meal track:
Family dinnertime is not about elaborate meals, but rather about spending some time together and reconnecting lives. Make mealtime a priority with your family and you will give your children the structure, community, life skills and feeling of belonging that they need to thrive.