Family Dinners

The Power of Family Dinners

connecting with your teenager family enrichment Apr 20, 2022

With today’s busy schedules, the family dinner for many has been replaced with a trip through the drive-thru after soccer practice or a piece of leftover pizza eaten in separate rooms by each member of the family. Today I am offering a challenge to you: Develop a plan for having a family dinner at least three times a week. I know what you are probably thinking: Is it even worth the effort? Will having family dinners really make any difference for me or my children?


Here are a few items to consider as you think about whether making family dinners a priority is worth it.


Dr. Anne Fishel, co-founder of the Family Dinner Project, notes in an interview on the Harvard EdCast that Teenagers rank family dinner pretty high on their list of things they like to do, and 80% of teenagers say that family dinner is the time of the day they're most likely to talk to their parents.”


There are a number of scientific studies that point to the benefits of having family dinners. Key findings to consider from include improved mental health, increased family bonds, better grades, better physical health, and increased savings.


A study published in the journal Pediatrics, for instance, found that teenagers who participated in regular family dinners were less likely to use drugs.


The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University reported that children who eat fewer than three family meals per week were twice as likely to receive Cs or worse on their report cards. In contrast, children who ate family meals five to seven times a week received mostly As and Bs.   


There are also a number of studies that show that regular family dinners lead to improvements in mental and physical health. I would add that these dinners are a great time to build connections and coach your teenager.


So it is worth it.


Next, use this challenge as an opportunity for your own personal growth. This is a perfect opportunity to practice being intentional about your mindset. Remember that a change in perspective…changes everything. Rather than focusing your attention on the time and effort of planning family dinners, ask yourself these questions:


How else could I look at family dinners?

What are three great benefits our family could see from regular family dinners?

How could we make this work in our family?


When you are grounded in a loving perspective, the family dinner will be viewed as a gift and a treasured part of your family’s day-to-day life. 


Finally, here are five ways you can make family dinners interesting:


  1. Change the scenery—If the weather is nice, eat outside. Eat in the dining room rather than at the everyday kitchen table. Do a progressive dinner using different parts of the house.
  2. Conversation starters—Have everyone share their highs and lows for the day. Share something you're proud of or grateful for. Take turns bringing a joke of the day. Use questions from a game like Would You Rather…
  3. Take turns setting the menu and preparing the food—Your teenager will be out on their own before you know it. This is a great way to teach them to cook.
  4. Get carryout or have dinner delivered sometimes—This takes the pressure off preparation and clean up.
  5. Turn the after-dinner clean up into a dance party/music appreciation event. Take turns picking the music and share why the artist is so great. Be sure to keep an open mind.


Being a family hero means taking a stand for the importance of family time. If your family has drifted away from family dinners, there is a possibility that your children will resist your efforts to bring this back. Stop yourself if you start to get defensive. Stay grounded in a love-based mindset. Work on building connections and empowering your teen to engage with the family. 


In short: Don’t forget to be awesome.





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