“All great change in America begins at the dinner table.” —President Ronald Reagan
One of the core values of Beehive Meals is supporting families in creating space and time for family dinner. Modern families struggle to find time to spend together, as so many of us are busy working parents, kids involved in all sorts of activities, and demands outside our homes that keep us away from each other.
We’re bound and determined to give you a chance to take back family dinners.
Perhaps we’re preaching to the choir here, but if you need some encouragement to sit your family down together at the dinner table every night, here are some scientifically backed reasons why having dinner together as a family as often as possible (every night is best!) is so important.
Your Health — and Your Kids — Will Thank You
There have been several studies on the impact of sitting down to dinner as a family can have on our health, some done by the National Institutes of Health, Stanford Medicine Children’s Health Clinic, Harvard Medicine, and more. What they found is pretty conclusive, and we’ve broken it down to give you a bite sized review.
- Lower risk of obesity for kids. Eating meals with family members on a regular basis is connected with having a better diet. Teens and kids are more likely to eat fruits and veggies, good proteins, and try new foods when they eat with their siblings and parents. It helps them build a foundation for good habits that will continue for the rest of their lives.
- Lower risk of obesity for adults. Planning a family dinner takes some effort (don’t we know it), but you’re more likely to include fruits and veggies and have a balanced diet when you are planning for your family. This means that the adults in your home are also getting the food they need to stay healthy.
- Lower rate of substance abuse. This was an interesting connection, which Harvard and Stanford both agree is linked to the mental health benefits of eating family dinner, which we’ll look at below. But suffice it to say, studies have been examining the link between drugs, alcohol, and family dinner time for decades and it’s clear: Teens who have family dinner on the regular are less likely to try drugs and alcohol at a young age.
- Lower risk of eating disorders. This is another area where mental and physical health go hand-in-hand, but we’re going to list this as a physical health benefit. When your kids witness your relationship with food and how you fuel your body, they are likely to mimic what you do. If you’re giving your body healthy foods and eating well, they are less likely to struggle with an eating disorder.
- Increases physical activity. When families have dinner together, kids are more likely to have higher levels of fitness and an increased desire to go outside and play. Eating well makes you want to move your body, too, which only increases your health and wellness.
Family Dinner Makes You Happier — Seriously.
After delving through lots of research and health articles, we were astounded by all the ways having family dinner can benefit our mental health as caregivers and especially the mental health of our kids.
- Improves self-esteem. Experts at Stanford Medicine Children’s Health found that kids are more confident in themselves when they have family dinner. It gives them a space to talk about their day, communicate their struggles, and engage in conversations with the people they love. Stanford encourages families to allow kids to choose their own seats and have chores associated with dinner time (setting the table, cleaning up, serving the food, helping planning the meal, etc.). All of these things help them improve their skills and also show them how capable they are which in turn improves their self-esteem.
- Helps kids handle bullying. Whoosh — there it is, that big word: bullying. As many as 1 in 5 of our teens are experiencing cyberbullying every day. And while you might feel powerless when it comes to combating those bullies, family dinner is something you can do to help. Teens who ate dinner with their families reported fewer problems with bullying. Yes, it was still happening, but they had the tools they needed to deal with it and felt comfortable talking to their parents about it. If that’s not reason enough to have family dinner, we don’t know what is.
- Helps kids and adults handle stress. This is a big one for everyone in the family. While family dinner might sound stressful to you (we see you there), it also provides an opportunity to release stress. The family dinner table provides a space to talk about our days, what went wrong, what went right, and where we could use some help from our family members. Think of it as an extension of family therapy — you’re all there to help each other.
Family Dinner Helps Your Kids Communicate In and Out of the Home
Having everyone gathered around the table gives you a chance to teach your kids how to behave in public. We don’t just mean not crawling over the table for their favorite food (though we do think that’s important). There are also other social benefits to having family dinner.
- Improves communication skills. A recent Canadian study followed a group of kids from birth through their middle childhood years, and found that family dinners impacted the way they communicated. Families that have dinner together every night have more articulate kids who can communicate their needs, express their feelings, and support others in their needs, too.
- Increased opportunity to learn about the world. Having family dinner with parents gives young kids the opportunity to learn about social issues, day-to-day concerns of their parents, and vicarious learning through social interactions. In other words, they’re listening. They watch and listen to our conversations and they learn from us.
- Kids can learn manners. While every family’s idea of what good manners are varies, family dinner is the number one place to communicate those values. Learning how to say please and thank you, passing food, chewing with your mouth closed, elbows off the table (can you tell we’ve said these a million times at our own tables?), this all happens at family dinners. One day, when your son or daughter is at a scholarship dinner or a work dinner, they’ll thank you for those hundreds of family dinners when you taught them good manners.
Make Family Dinners Happen — You Won’t Regret It
You have the power to make a difference in the physical, mental, and social health of your family by simply sitting down together to have family dinner. Teach your kids the value of eating well, listen to their struggles and funny moments from their school day, teach them to chew with their mouth closed, and most importantly, just be together. Our families need us. Family dinner is one way you can support the adults and kids in your life.
Let us help take the busy work out of family dinner and give you a chance to focus on the people eating the food. Dinner time doesn’t have to be chaos time, with you scrambling to pull a meal together that’s delicious and healthy. Check out Beehive Meals, and sit down at the table for a warm, healthy meal today and every day.