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Meals at the Table May Make Teenage Years Easier

Teens at the tableEating meals together is an important part of nurturing healthy, strong family relationships.  The reality today, however, is that many families are busy and over-scheduled with meetings, play dates, business trips, after-school activities, and much more. When these commitments pile up, they can feel like serious obstacles to having family meals where parents and kids can interact and communicate. That's why it is important for parents to carve out time for family meals and make them a priority. 

Boys Town poll results show less than half (46%) of Americans are eating family meals together at least once a day, yet 93% know eating regular family meals together is important. Results from the survey, conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of Boys Town in 2015 among over 2,000 U.S. adults, also show that 94% of Americans know that a family meal is a good time for families to communicate.

Boys Town Psychologist, Dr. Tom Reimers, believes family mealtime is an important part of raising children. He says parents should start the routine early so they can start a communication pattern that will continue through the more difficult teenage years. "A lot of times when kids get older they won't talk, but parents really haven't spent time throughout the child's lifetime talking with them on a regular basis." 

Mealtimes provide parents with excellent opportunities to talk with their children in a relaxed setting. This makes it more likely kids will be willing to open up about what is happening in their lives with things like friends, school, social pressures, and many other topics.      

Here are some suggestions for parents to help bring families back to the table.

  • As a family, discuss priorities and make family meals one of them. Create a large, color-coded family calendar that includes a scheduled mealtime between band practice and soccer.
  • Make the most of the ten minutes you do have for dinner by asking poignant, open-ended questions that trigger conversations instead of simple "yes" or "no" answers.
  • Create a family rule that cell phones, tablets, and the television must be turned off and cannot be brought to the dinner table.
  • Get kids engaged through meal participation. They are more likely to be excited to sit down for a meal they helped create. Allow them to help at the grocery store, create the menu, or simply stir ingredients.
  • Find a different time if dinner won't fit in the schedule. Have a snack together before bedtime or eat breakfast together in the morning and take a few minutes to talk without any distractions.

"It's really important for parents and families in general to get rid of the distractions that are abundant during mealtime," said Reimers. "That means turning off the television, putting phones away, and getting rid of technology that can disrupt or distract from having a good conversation." 

Family meals don't have to be fancy or long. The key is to make them a priority and have them as often as you can. Coming together at the table is a wonderful time to nourish both the body and your relationships with your children.