6 Scientific Reasons Why Eating Together as a Family Matters

The name “Two Good Things” comes from one of our family traditions. We eat dinner together regularly as a family and each member of the family takes turns sharing two good things about their day. This simple tradition helps us stay connected, but you don’t have to take our word for it. Science suggests many reasons why family dinner matters, here are just six of them.

Better mental and emotional health

Studies have shown that having dinner together as a family leads to greater happiness for all family members.

Dinner is a perfect opportunity to build self-esteem in children.  When you listen to what children have to say, they hear the message, “You matter to me.  I care about you and what you’re doing.  You are important to me.”

Studies show that children who eat with their parents are getting that message.  They generally have higher self-esteem, and a lower risk of depression and suicidal thoughts.

Eating together as a family increases resilience.  Mealtimes give people the opportunity to express anxieties and concerns. In a recent study, kids who had been victims of cyberbullying bounced back more readily if they had regular family dinners.

Teens who eat together regularly with their families also have a more positive view of the future, compared to their peers who don’t eat their parents. They also reported a higher life satisfaction regardless of family economics. 

These benefits are not just for the children; mothers who are with their families were also found to be happier and less stressed as compared to mothers who did not. 

Better physical health

Families that eat together tend to make better food choices. They eat more fruits and vegetables, less saturated and trans fat, fewer fried foods and sodas, lower glycemic lead, and more vitamins and other micro-nutrients.

Children are less likely to be obeseand have a much lower likelihood of developing eating disorders.

Developmental skills

Sharing dinner together with parents promotes language skills. Research indicates that family conversation at home is associated with brain development in children.  John Gabrieli, the senior author of a research study using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) says, “It’s almost magical how parental conversation appears to influence the biological growth of the brain.” Since more family talk occurs during mealtime than during any other activity, the importance of sharing family meals together cannot be overlooked. 

In addition to language skills, the dinner table gives children the opportunity to learn social skills as they observe how their parents interact, negotiate, solve problems, expression emotions and treat one another with respect.  They learn how to interact and cooperate. 

Academic success

Reading to young children is an obvious way to help them be adequately prepared when they begin school.  What is not obvious, is that studies indicate that eating dinner together as a family has been shown to be even more effective. In fact, regular mealtime is an even more powerful predictor of high achievement scores than the amount of time spent in school or doing homework.

The benefits of family mealtime go far beyond the preschool and elementary years.  In a study, teens who ate family meals five to seven times a week were twice as likely to get A’s in school as those who ate dinner with their families fewer than two times a week.  

Better behavior

Children who eat with their parents regularly are more likely to be adjusted, have good manners and communications skills. They are less likely to engage in high risk behaviors like substance abuse, violence, school problems, eating disorders and teen pregnancy

Better relationships

Relationships are strengthened with good communication and more family talk occurs during mealtime than during any other activity.  Our separate daily activities and individual challenges can leave us feeling disconnected, but eating dinner together as a family allows family members to reconnect and form strong bonds with one another.

Young children who eat dinner with their parents experience less stress and have a better relationship with them. But do teenagers like eating meals together as a family?  Survey says yes! In fact, in one survey 71% of teenagers said that they consider talking/catching up, and spending time with family members as the best part of family dinners. 

Those frequent, loving, informal connections pay dividends in maintaining great relationships with teenagers.  Teens who have frequent family meals together are more likely to report having excellent relationships with their family and their parents.

In conclusion

Eating together as a family. It’s not just about the food; it’s about the family.  Here’s a simple suggestion to encourage sharing and discussion, take turns sharing two good things about your day. It’s an easy way to keep connected and strengthen your family.