School, work, after-school activities—the demands of modern-day life can easily decrease the time we spend together as a family. But sharing a meal with the entire family each evening is great for the mind, body and soul. Some busy parents may consider sitting down as a family for dinner a luxury but, many professionals consider family dinners the most natural form of family counseling. Touching base with your children nightly has been proven to have both a positive psychological and physical impact, and as a result should be made a true priority.
When asked when they were most likely to talk with their parents, dinner was the top answer among American teenagers. This time for open communication, paired with fresh and healthy foods, creates a winning recipe all parents should consider as food for thought.
Studies continue to prove—time and time again—that sitting down regularly for a family meal has immediate and long-lasting effects on youth as they navigate through the rocky waters of adolescence. Here are some quick facts:
- Multiple studies connect regular family dinners with lowering multiple high-risk teen behaviors such as: binge drinking, smoking, drug use, problems at school, violence, eating disorders and sexual activity.
- Regular family dinners have been associated with lower rates of depression and suicidal thoughts in teens.
- Victims of cyberbullying have been shown to recover more quickly if they participated in regular family dinners.
- Adolescents who eat dinner with their parents often experience less stress and have better familial relationships.
In the fight against obesity, family dinners play a major role. Consider gauging your teen’s interest in growing and preparing healthy foods alongside you, and try to incorporate key nutritional education. Increasing participation in all aspects of family dinners will only serve to amplify these physical benefits listed below:
- Children who regularly eat family dinners consume more fresh and healthy foods like vegetables and fruits, as well as micronutrients and key vitamins.
- Teens who eat regular family meals grow into young adults who are less likely to be obese and more likely to eat healthily once they live on their own.
- Adolescents who share family meals three or more times per week are more likely to be in a normal weight range, have healthier dietary and eating patterns, and are also less likely to engage in disordered eating.
Making the Most of Family Meal Time
When considering implementing more family dinners, it is important to approach the situation from a positive place. There will always be excuses as to why you can’t make it happen. “There’s just not enough time in my day to cook a wholesome meal,” or “My family’s schedule is just too overwhelming” are valid sentiments, but they can be overcome and you can make dinner a household staple. The Family Dinner Project provides a free guide that includes simple healthy recipes, dinner activities and conversation starters to help you enjoy more quality time with your teen. They also host helpful parent groups where members can share their challenges and successes in a supportive environment.
At Pacific Quest, we know the importance of fresh and healthy foods, as well as a healthy familial unit. Our Wilderness Therapy program incorporates wellness plans unique to each and every student that outline specific components for overall health and wellness. All students go through the process of learning the basics of nutrition, and they even cook and prepare all of their own food from natural, organic ingredients. Meals at PQ provide a special time to converse and connect, while nourishing a healthy body. It is our belief that for adolescents and young adults to feel energized for optimal engagement in family counseling and other aspects of the therapeutic process, they must eat nutritious food. If you have questions about our approach, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.