The Importance of Family Meals:  Pt. 1:  The Hard Facts

Want to help keep your child from dangerous habits like smoking, drinking alcohol and using  drugs?  Then take action to ensure all the members of your family gather around the dinner table for at least 5 meals per week.  

The Power of the Family Meal

Research from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University finds that the more often children eat dinner with their parents, the less likely they are to smoke, drink, or use illicit drugs. 

The research compared teens who dined with families 5-7 times a week with those who did so twice or less a week. Those who ate together more often were 4 times less likely to smoke, 2.5 times less likely to use marijuana, and half as likely to drink alcohol.

The CASA says that teens who regularly eat dinner with their families are also more likely to get better grades and do better in school. Better grades are also associated with a lower risk for substance abuse.

In contrast, teens that eat dinner with their families 2 or less times a week are more likely to engage in risky and illegal activities that can result in serious consequences. 

Emotional Benefits Too

The CASA researchers also found that teens and young adults who ate regular meals with their parents were less likely to seek treatment for mental health problems like depression and anxiety, compared to teens of families not eating together on a regular basis.

1)  If needed, change your attitude about the importance of family meals.

A change in behavior begins with a change in attitude.  If you believe family meals are important it will be noticed and gradually respected by the rest of the family.

2)  Try to schedule at least 5 meals per week where the entire family eats at the table together.

Write the schedule down and get family members to verbally commit to it.  Yes, unexpected things will come up that ruin your plans, but family members will know that eating together was important enough to be on the schedule.

3)  Read the next article of this series:   

The Importance of Family Meals:  Pt. 2: The Conversation Is More Important Than the Eating


Adapted from:

The Importance of Family Closeness