Family Meals Spell S-U-C-C-E-S-S!

family_dinnerLast week we blogged about research published in JAMA Pediatrics that found teens eating dinner with their families reduced the effects of cyber bullying. The data indicates that when there are no family dinners, there’s an increase in the rates of problems with cyber bullying.  Four or more family dinners a week, however, resulted in fewer problems. This was exciting news for parents who want tools to help prevent depression, anxiety, and suicide in their emerging adults.

There is even more great news for parents. The positive effects of family dinners don’t end there. Purdue University’s Center for Families compiled research that supports even further benefits of sharing family meals. Their clever acronym makes it simple for parents to remember the importance of sitting down together.

Family meals spell S-U-C-C-E-S-S

S: Smarter Children

  • A Harvard study found family meals played a significant role in language development. The conversations that occur around the family table teach children more vocabulary than they learn when you read to them. Improved vocabularies lead to better readers. Better readers do better in all school subjects.
  • A University of Illinois study linked family meals to better improved achievement test scores.
  • A Reader’s Digest survey found eating meals with family was a strong predictor of academic success.
  • Columbia University research found a higher percent of teens who got As ate 5 or more times per week than those who ate with their families 2 or less times per week.

U: Unlikely to smoke, drink or use drugs

  • Cincinnati Children’s Hospital found teens who ate 5 dinners per week with their families were least likely to take drugs, feel depressed or get into trouble.
  • According to Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) teens who only ate two times a week with parents were more likely to smoke cigarettes, smoke marijuana and drink than those who ate dinner with their parents 6 or 7 times.
  • CASA surveys also found teens who eat family dinners are at lower risk of getting into fights, having sex at young ages, and having thoughts of suicide. This was true regardless of the teen’s gender, family structure, or socio-economic status.

C: Conversational and Courteous

  • Family meals are a training ground for learning social skills, manners, and problem solving. At the table children can learn how to take turns, be polite, avoid interrupting, sharing, how to entertain and how to behave when guests are present. All lessons necessary for success in life.

C: Connected to Family

  • According to CASA surveys teens who have family dinners often are more likely to feel content, more likely to work hard and more likely to have positive friendships.
  • Kraft found American families who eat together report higher levels of happiness in all aspects of their lives than those who don’t.

E: Eating Better

  • University of Minnesota published results of the Eating Among Teens (EAT) study that found a relationship between family meals and dietary intake. Family meals were linked to improved consumption of fruit, vegetables, grains, calcium rich foods, protein, iron, fiber and vitamins A, C, E, and B6.
  • The EAT study also found girls who ate more frequent family meals exhibited less disordered eating including dieting, extreme weight control, and binge eating.
  • Family meals also helped to prevent childhood obesity. Regular meals prevent grazing and give parents an opportunity to model healthy behaviors.

S: Sharing Food and Conversation at meals

S: Strengthens families


Birmingham Maple Clinic therapist Carrie Krawiec, LMFT will be discussing the mental health and relationship benefits of family meals on WDIV and TV20. Speaking to a family therapist may be beneficial to help make the most of your family times by learning empathic communication skills as well as identifying ways to fit family meals into busy stressed out schedules.  To schedule an appointment visit www.birminghammaple.com or call (248) 646-6659. To learn more about Family Mealtime visit the Purdue University Center for Families’ Promoting Family Meals Project: www.cfs.purdue.edu/CFF/promotingfamilymeals.

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