by Laraine L. Thompsoon
In recent years, numerous studies have indicated the overriding importance of family meal time. A 2004 University of Minnesota study published in The Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine states that “frequent family meals are related to better nutritional intake, and a decreased risk for unhealthy weight control practices and substance abuse.” Another benefit, of course, is reduced cost of feeding one’s family. Going out for dinner is very expensive!
While nobody would quibble with the notion that family meals contribute to eating more healthfully or less expensively, it is the component related to less substance abuse that is of utmost importance. We constantly ask ourselves, “What one thing can we do as a family that will most contribute to our success?” We supply numerous answers—study the scriptures together, hold family home evening, attend church together, hold family prayer—the list goes one and on. The single, simplest, of all changes to implement is an ironclad establishment of family mealtime!
In yet another study the multiple benefits of a family mealtime are outlined:
- Families eat more healthy foods, fewer junk food, less soda
- Children have stronger connections with their parents/siblings
- Family members build stronger vocabularies
- Children achieve better grades in school
- Children develop few eating disorders
- Teenagers engage in far fewer risky behaviors
Christine Mann, “Research Shows Lasting Benefits of Family Dinners”
One added, but huge, benefit is that children are more apt to discuss/ask questions that they otherwise would keep to themselves. Communication improves dramatically. The liveliest and most beneficial discussions by far held in our family were around the breakfast and dinner tables. Notice the inclusion of breakfast to the mix. Eating breakfast together has even more far reaching benefits. Early morning seminary throws a real monkey wrench into this mix; however, experience demonstrates that children will always remember that you were willing to sacrifice your precious time and energy to see that they had a proper, meaningful beginning and end to their days!
Photo source: Public domain from National Cancer Institute