Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Saving the Family Dinner

The research is in. Having dinner regularly together with your kids seems to be good for every good thing - lower risk of depression and suicidal thoughts, low risk of smoking, alcohol, or marijuana use, higher likelihood of healthy eating, fewer eating disorders, and better grades.

According to a Harvard study, family dinners were more important than play, storytime, or other family events for building vocabulary. And "families that engaged in extended discourse at the dinner table, like story telling and explanations, rather than one-phrase comments, like 'eat your vegetables,' had children with better language skills, said Dr. Catherine Snow, a professor of education at Harvard and the researcher of the study. Parents should be encouraged to use adult-level vocabulary and encourage back-and-forth conversation with their kids. It also helps social skills. Today, 65% of families with kids under the age of 6 have dinner together 5 or so nights per week, but that drops to 50% if a family has kids age 12 to 17.

As a kid, we always got together for family dinners at our house. My dad was a big storyteller and with 4 kids, it really got busy with everyone debating current events and defending opinions. We could also try out new ideas, tell jokes, and see what everyone else was up to. These dinners were great.

Once I had my own family and both of us were working, it was harder than I thought. Ultimately we fought for it, and we won. For some families, especially in the teen years, this gets harder and harder to achieve. Stick to your guns as much as possible though. Your kids may surprise you. They may begin inviting their friends to the dinner too.

Families that dine together
Vocabulary and Family Meals
Less Substance Abuse, Depression, School Failure

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