In Defense Of The Family Meal


Parenting: In Defense Of The Family Meal
Sure, you're busy... but are you really too stressed to sit down for a meal together?

The family meal, once a common occurrence in American homes, has been usurped by a parade of extracurriculars and activity. Parents who rush home from work and then rush off to sporting events, piano lessons, and school activities rarely have time to breathe — let alone prepare a scrumptious, nutritious meal. It's estimated that only 30 percent of families eat meals together regularly. Yet, all research points to the fact that the family meal is a relic worth saving:

1. Consider that adolescents who eat five to six meals per week with their families are 7-24 percent less likely to smoke cigarettes or marijuana, drink alcohol, or show signs of depression than are teens who eat with the family less frequently. 


2. Mealtime conversation was found to build a child's vocabulary and boost intelligence more than listening to stories or reading aloud. 

3. A University of Michigan study found that eating more meals at home was the single strongest predictor of better achievement scores and fewer behavioral problems. Mealtime was far more powerful than time spent in school, studying, church, playing sports, and art activities. 

Through the family meal, your child learns how to make conversation, use good manners and how to eat nutritiously. When viewed in this light, the family meal is well worth the effort it takes to orchestrate. Eating five or more meals together per week appears to be the magic number for gaining the most benefits, according to The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.

So, knowing all this, how can you make the family meal a realistic goal, and a pleasant experience? Let's look at common problems that families face and offer solutions from 20 Great Ways to Raise Great Kids available free at

Problem: We simply don't have time to eat together regularly.
Solution: Consider cutting back on one or more activities. Or choose activities that do not commonly occur during the dinner hour.
Be creative! You could let kids have a hearty snack when they get home and then eat the family meal at 8PM What about bringing a picnic dinner to soccer and eating right before or after the practice. You could even pick up take-out and eat in the car together! The keyword here is "together".

Problem: I don't have time to make dinner after working 40+ hours a week.
Solution: Once a week, sit down and plan what your menus for each night will be. Create your grocery list from there, so you'll have all the ingredients you need on hand. Whoever gets home first can start making the meal. Get kids involved in meal preparation by having them wash fruit and vegetables, and set the table. Keep reading...

More parenting advice from YourTango:

Latest Expert Videos
Must-see Videos
Most Popular