• Dr. Bill Walker

For the Sake of Your Children:  Eat Family Meals Together

The surprising benefits of your family sitting around the table sharing a meal together seem almost too good to be true.

How can something like sharing regular family meals together influence whether your children are depressed, use drugs, or do well in school?

It’s true! Family meals positively influence your kids in all these areas and more.

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA), at the prestigious Columbia University in New York, recently compared teens from families who ate together 5-7 times a week with teens from families who only ate together 2 times a week (or less).


The CASA study found that teens from families who ate together 2 or less times a week were FOUR times more likely to smoke cigarettes, 2.5 times more likely to use marijuana, and twice as likely to drink alcohol, compared to teens who ate at least 5 meals a week with their family.

The Benefits Do NOT Stop There!

The CASA researchers also discovered:

»Teens who regularly ate meals together with their parents were more likely to get better grades and do better in school overall, compared with teens who enjoyed meals less often with their families.

»Teens who ate with their family less than 3 times a week also reported that the T.V was usually on when the family did eat together and that the family did not talk much with one another during the meal.

»Teens who regularly ate with their parents said there was lots of conversation during their family meals. Topics ranged from:




*social events

*current events

*family problems/issues

Parents, these are some of the most amazing family research findings I

(B. Walker) have read about in a long time.

Kids who feel supported and connected to their parents and family don’t feel the need to engage in destructive, risky behaviors.

My belief is that a major reason kids DO engage in risky behaviors is to express their discontent with the lack of expressed closeness in their family. Families who do not eat together are likely lacking in the expression of closeness and connectedness in other ways, as well.

Family closeness offers security, comfort, and love. Children need this family closeness to gain confidence in their lives. Family meals are a major, if not the major way, a family experiences the togetherness and closeness God designed the family to offer.

Kids that do not feel connected and supported by their family tend to drift. They drift towards other people who feel disconnected like they do, and they drift towards unhealthy behaviors that express their hurt and frustration.

Good Parenting Action Points

  • Make a Strong Commitment To Your Family Sharing At Least 1 Meal Every Day If a family member or two cannot be there eat together anyway. This will set an unwritten rule in your family: 'Our family will eat together at the table at least 1 meal a day - no exceptions.'

  • Make Clear a Second Meal Guideline: 'We will talk to one another at the table'. We will listen to one another eand express love and concern for one another as we eat. We will ask how each other's day went. We will comment on and discuss the good and the bad. We will support family members who are struggling.

  • Do Not make the Family Meal a Time For Criticism. Nothing will shut down conversation faster than criticizing family members. Any issue that needs criticizing can be addressed in a more positive manner. Ex: "Can anyone think of some ways Johnny could have handled that situation in a way that did not get him sent to the office?"

  • TURN the T.V. OFF!! There is nothing on the T.V. that is more important than the family spending time together in conversation and fellowship. Nothing!

  • No Phones or Other Electronic Devices at the Table. Remember: This time around the table may be the ONLY time of the day the entire family gathers together. A good policy: During the meal, all devices must be left in another room. After the meal is over, then you may get your device.

Note: Parents, after your child turns 16 & gets their drivers license, getting the entire family around the table each day will become much more difficult. Don't give up! Gather the family together as often as you can. It may no longer be every day, but even 4-5 meals a week is better than 2 or less times a week.

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