Some say that everything you need to learn, you learn in kindergarten. However, recent studies by CASA ( National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University ) suggest that another place where important learning happens is at the dinner table!
CASA has been promoting “Family Day: A day to eat dinner with your children” since 2001, and they have been publishing annual reports named “The Importance of Family Dinners” since 2005 (the current report released Monday is known as “The Importance of Family Dinners VIII”) Consistently over the years, their research has supported the idea that families who eat dinner together frequently show a whole host of benefits as compared to families who seldom eat together.
Some of the important benefits looked at in the 2012 report were to see the quality of relationship between teens and their parents and how much parents know about what’s going on in their children’s lives, as related to how many times families eat together. Not surprisingly families who eat together showed better relationships between parents and teens, and better family functioning overall.
The report points out that the “magic” that happens at the table is less related to what’s for dinner as it is about the conversations and the family’s ability to connect with one another.
Some other benefits that have been linked to more frequent family dinners are:
- Reduced stress for parents
- Reduced stress for children and reduced signs of depression
- Parents can model healthy eating habits
- Children are more likely to eat healthier fruits and vegetables and eat less junk food
- Lower obesity rate
- Better grades and language skills
- Reduced likelihood of engaging in risky behaviors and using drugs or alcohol
For the past 10 years, CASA has been celebrating "Family Day" on the last Monday of September. However, in New Canaan this year, you'll have two opportunities. The Outback Teen Center is celebrating a “Free Family Night” on Thursday and the New Canaan YMCA is hosting “Family Dinner at the Y” on Friday evening. Both events will include free dinner and lots of fun activities for families. The two events are being offered in partnership with Youth Services Department, New Canaan YMCA, New Canaan Police Department, Outback Teen center and Walter Stewart’s Market.
So whether you plan to join one of the upcoming events, eat out at your favorite restaurant or dine in, do it with your family! And know that the time you spend around the dinner table is often as important in the development of your kids as the time you or they spend sitting at your desks.
Dinner makes a difference!