Dining and binding – a winning combination

Eating together frequently helps to not only temper risky behaviors in teens, but provide meaningful opportunities for quality time together. According to a survey done by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University in 2005, it is important to not only have quality time, but also a quantity of time together. It is encouraging to note that the number of teens reporting having dinner at least five times a week has increased from 47% in 1998 to 58% in 2005. As expected those teens who are dining with family more frequently are also associated with lower rates of smoking, drinking, and drug use. They also are likelier to get better grades in school, to say that their parents are proud of them, and that they could confide in them. Those students reporting fewer than three dinners together also are part of families that are more likely to have the television on, to not have much conversation, and to have a short eating time. In terms of what gets talked about it is school and sports (86%), friends and social activities (76%), current events (63%), and family issues or problems (58%). Interestingly, the two topics that teens wish they could honestly discuss with their parents are: religious matters (51%) and curfews (51%).


Filed under encouraging the heart, kids/culture, student outcomes, use of time

8 responses to “Dining and binding – a winning combination

  1. Alicia Christensen

    My family has always placed an importance on eating dinner together and discussing the events of the day together. I think it really helps children feel like they are a part of the family and it establishes an open communication between the parent and the children. I also agree that it is a great idea to turn off the TV and try not to take phone calls because then the family can really focus on each other and enjoy each others company. When families are too busy to sit down and eat the children might not feel like they are wanted or important in the family because the parents are taking the time to be with them. I am really glad that the percent of families that eat dinner together has risen. It is so important for the families to take a half hour together and share a meal because it might be the only time they share together for the entire day!

  2. Jill Buehler

    As Alicia said, my family too has made dinner together a priority. We also turn off the T.V. and avoid answering the phone. I think it is important to have this time together, and I plan on having family dinners in my own home one day. I know that I am closer to my parents and my brother because of it. It gave my parents a chance to ask my brother and I about our day. Now that I am in college, I look forward to going home to have a meal with my family.

  3. Peter Zigterman

    It was always a priority in my family to attempt to have dinner together as a family. While this at times proved to be difficult with a family of eight, we managed to do so on most nights. As a child I needed a legitimate reason to not be present at the dinner table. All of my siblings and myself have very good lines of communication with my parents and I believe that this quality time spent at the dinner table certainly helped to contribute to that. The half hour of time spent together allows parents to catch up on the lives of their children as well as describe and put on display what they believe to be important to communicate to their family. I also definitely agree with Alicia’s point that when a family doesn’t take the time to spend a meal together it sends a poor message regarding the importance of family.

  4. Becky Wych

    When growing up my family tried to eat dinner as a family as many nights that we possible could. My parents felt very strong about this issue. However, as my brother and I grew older this became a harder and harder thing to do. At one point either my brother or I had a sporting even every night of the week. If there were not games there was always practices that had different times every night. During the weekend my family would have to plan ahead and see who would be at dinner and what nights are not going to be the whole family. We found that if we all were not able to have dinner together we felt it was necessary to be at the siblings sporting event supporting them and still conversing with the rest of the family watching. Whether eating dinner together every night or just finding time to support and encouragement families can grow. As students’ extracurricular activities begin to pile up I encourage every family to be supportive because if dinnertime as a family may be skipped there is still plenty of time for family bonding and quality and quantity of time together.

  5. Leah Zumdahl

    It seems that everyone who has commented as stated how important family meals were to them growing up. I also come from such a family. I expect this event to occur every time I come home and visit and it is rare that we eat at varying times. This has made a huge difference to me and my family through the years. Because I grew up in a pastor’s family we have gone through many nights with my father busy at meetings but they were never enough to keep us from dinner together. We eat earlier or later in order to accomodate each other’s schedules and it has reaffirmed the importance of families and family time.

  6. Caitlin Fillmore

    Growing up, I rarely had a chance to have dinner with my whole family during the week. Between sports, work, student council, dance and piano lessons, we just could not find that time to be together. What I love about my experience is that my parents always found a way to take that time to communicate with us. Maybe our special time was not around the dinner table, but that is fine because I still knew they were proud of me and it mattered that I stayed in school and out of trouble. It is possible for a family to sit around the table for every single meal and still not have those important conversations going on. Parents just need to take that time for their children, no matter where they are when they take it. Of course I want to someday eat meals at the table with my family, but I also know I want my children to have all the opportunities I had to get involved with extracurricular activities. I will, however, make sure that quality time is always spent with my family.

  7. Jori Koster

    Growing up I can always remember eating dinner with my family. Sometimes it was hard to have everyone around during the week. But we always made time together on Sunday’s. Sunday dinner was something you didn’t question. You just did it. Coming from a students perspective i can admit that I loved spending that thirty or forty minutes with my family to discuss the events of the day.
    As a teacher i think you can see in students behaviors, social interactions, and decisions they make whether or not family is valued. It makes the child feel loved and cared for. It helps build social skills and cognitive thinking. A family that is involved with each other and makes time for each other more often than not produces more stability for the child in the classroom and in life.

  8. Maddy Manden

    I believe that this meal time is very important. My family was very busy especially with one mom, three teenagers, school, work, activities and always a house full of friends. Even through everyone was on a different schedule we always managed to eat meals together. Most of the time we would be able to all pray together then eat and leave at different times. There were some days where we would take shifts eating just because there was so many of us and so many different activities going on. My mom has a rule which states, no one is allowed to eat alone. This way everyone feels included and has someone to talk to. There is always some one to eat with but my favorite time is when we all sit down together to eat and talk about everything.

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