3 Benefits of Family Meals

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Let’s face it, finding a time when the whole family can meet around a table for meals can be challenging especially with busy activity and work schedules. I face similar challenges as a mom of two, but after many years as a marriage and family therapist, I’m convinced it is well worth the effort for all the benefits it can bring to your family. The great news is family meals do not have to take a long time or be home cooked to offer many benefits. You can meet at your favorite restaurant, get takeout to eat in a park, or even eat leftovers from the night before. If dinner is a difficult time to get everyone in one place, try breakfast together instead. There are lots of options to help fit a meal with your family into the schedule. Try to focus on choosing an environment where you can make eye contact and conversation with your family to experience the most benefits from the time together. Here are some benefits you may experience:

Boost Academic Performance

Kids who have frequent family dinners (5-7 per week) are more likely to receive better grades in school. This could be due to the structured mealtime giving parents more opportunity to check in and engage with their child around their education, and offering support and encouragement that translates to better academic outcomes.

Improved Well-being

The consistent, supportive environment of family meals provides emotional stability and a sense of belonging, important for mental well-being. In fact, regular family meals are associated with a reduction in depression in teens and are linked to better overall self-esteem. This is likely due to the increase in hormones in the brain during these family interactions such as dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. Kids and teens are also more likely to make better food choices during family meals which can improve sleep, mood, and energy levels.

Improved Family Relationships

Shared mealtime conversations help build deeper connections and a stronger sense of family bond. Eye contact and conversation during meals help to release oxytocin in our brains which is known as the bonding hormone. The more regularly you have these moments with your family the more bonded and connected the family will likely feel. These moments can happen outside of mealtime as well but when you plan for regular family meals it helps to bring a daily rhythm to this type of connection.

Family meals are more than just a time to eat; they are a great opportunity to connect, communicate, and support each other. By making regular family meals a priority, whether at home or at a favorite restaurant, you can significantly enhance your family’s academic performance, mental health, and relationships. So, find a table, gather your loved ones, and enjoy the benefits that come with this simple yet impactful family tradition.

JENNIFER WILMOTH, LMFT
Jennifer Wilmoth is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and founder of Thrive Forward Therapy in the Suwanee area with over a decade of experience. She received her Masters of Family Therapy from Mercer University School of Medicine. She works with families and individuals dealing with a variety of concerns. She specializes in working with couples who want to improve their relationship, teens experiencing difficulties at home or school, children experiencing behavioral or relational concerns, anxiety, and depression. Learn more at ThriveForwardTherapy.com.

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