Thirty years ago, sitting down as a family to eat dinner together was the norm. Most of us grew up this way, but in today’s hectic environment, family dinners have fallen by the wayside. With parents today juggling careers and children involved in multiple sports and activities, family time spent around the table is becoming much more rare. We are now beginning to understand just how important time spent around the dinner table is to your child’s academic success.
A Time To Bond
The routine of preparing and sharing meals regularly creates a sense of family togetherness and unity. It’s important to carve out time to sit down together around the table. Students who eat dinner with their families often are more likely to do well in school (40% more likely to earn As and Bs in school), be emotionally content and have lower levels of stress, have positive peer relationships and healthier eating habits, refrain from smoking, drinking, and doing drugs, and believe their parents are proud of them.
Family Dinners and Academic Success
Research shows there are major benefits of family dinners to children emotionally, as well as academically. These benefits include:
Improved Achievement Test Scores – A University of Illinois study of 120 boys and girls ages 7 to 11 found that children who did well on standard achievement tests were those that had consistent quality meal time with their families.
Improved Vocabulary and Reading Skills - A study by Dr. Catherine Snow at Harvard’s Graduate School showed that mealtime conversations teach children more vocabulary than when parents read to them. She followed 65 families for 15 years looking at how mealtime conversations played a critical role in language acquisition leading to improved vocabularies and better readers.
Greater Academic Achievement – A Reader’s Digest survey of more then 2,000 parents compared academic achievement with family characteristics. Surprisingly, eating meals together was a stronger predictor of academic success than whether the children lived with one or two parents.
Higher Grades – Researchers at Columbia University found a striking relationship between frequency of meal times and grades. Teens who have fewer than three family dinners in a typical week are more than twice as likely to do poorly in school.
Twenty percent of teens who have infrequent family dinners (three or four per week) report receiving mostly C’s or below in school, whereas only nine percent of teens who have frequent family dinners (five to seven per week) report receiving mostly C’s or lower.
Getting Back to The Table
Remember, family dinners are less about the food served and more about the time spent together. Use this time to talk and reconnect. Invite conversation. Ask open-ended questions and really listen to one another. Encourage your child to invite their friends to join in family meals. It is the simple act of being together that tends to increase a sense of security with children, not the elaborate makings of the meal.