3 Ways Family Dinner Helps Teens
Have you ever tried to rally the whole family for nightly mealtime around the table?
If so, you’ll know that it can be difficult for many reasons, like simply not having enough time to cook a meal with after-school activity schedules, parents’ hectic work schedules that don’t match up, exhaustion from job-related stress, and a variety of other things.
So what do you do?
Many parents have found success by planning nightly dinners ahead of time. You can do this by freezing meals or by involving your teenager in all aspects of picking, planning, preparing, and eating the meal!
But why does it matter?
It matters because studies show that there are many mental, physical, nutritional, and educational benefits for families who sit down for a nightly meal together at least three times a week. And the added bonus?
It doesn’t have to be a three hour, gourmet meal! So keep reading for tips and reasons to stay connected as a family around the dinner table and successfully inspire healthy habits in your teenagers.
Improves communication and engagement.
Regular family meals are a reliable way for parents and caregivers to connect and bond with their growing teens. They also provide a great opportunity to monitor your teenagers’ well-being and informally check in to see what’s going on in their lives without coming off as overbearing.
Most conversations happen around the dinner table, and in a recent study, researchers found that 54 percent of teens who have five to seven family dinners per week say the best time to talk to parents or caregivers about important issues is during or after dinner.
Looking for ways to strengthen your bond with your teen? Try connecting through weekly rituals, like cooking dinner or dessert together. Or moving the party to the living room after dinner for a family game or movie night. Make your living and dining areas a comfortable and unique spot for your teen and their friends to gather.
Podcast Carol Manus author of Table Talk About Family, Love and a Cookbook
While not necessary, some great bonus features of great dining and living room furniture are larger, scratch-resistant pieces that fit more people. By making your house a comfortable and fun place to be, you are opening up your doors for after-school hangouts and weekend sleepover parties, and are able to bond with your teen and their circle of friends without being domineering.
Lowers substance abuse rates.
It’s important to teach your children how to make smarter choices from a young age. After all, you want them to grow into successful, happy individuals who are confident in making their own decisions and resist giving in to peer pressure.
As teenagers, it can be hard to ignore outside influences from popular culture or peers, but when parents and caregivers provide a structure through regular family meals from a young age it can help ensure they are making mature, responsible decisions throughout their lives.
Since family dinners offer a great opportunity for parents and teens to discuss important topics, like substance abuse, it’s important to prioritize this and help your teen to avoid smoking, drinking, and drug use. You want your children to grow into young adults knowing how to make better decisions and understand their options, and these practices can start at the dinner table.
According to researchers, regularly shared mealtimes is linked to lower rates of teen smoking, drinking, illegal drug use and prescription drug abuse. Teens who have fewer than three family dinners per week are three and a half times likelier to have abused prescription drugs and three times likelier to have used marijuana.
So be sure to prioritize family meals and encourage open, educational discussions about substance abuse to help your teen open up and talk things out in a no-judgment-zone.
Improves academic performance.
Family dinners provide brain food for your teen. According to researchers, “adolescents who ate family meals five to seven times a week were twice as likely to get A’s in school as those who ate dinner with their families fewer than two times a week.” And it turns out that 84 percent of teens prefer eating dinner with their families, so don’t take those adolescent outbursts to heart.
Over the years your child soaks up knowledge and learns how to communicate and interact during family mealtime. Sit down dinners provide structure for children, so it makes sense that as they grow into teenagers they still prefer eating dinner as a family.
Now that you know why family mealtime matters, you’re ready to plan ahead and make it a weekly ritual without worrying about time constraints and hectic schedules! You and your teen will also be happy to have such wonderful memories to look back on from the time spent gathered around the table together as a family.