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Western Reserve Psychological Associates, Inc.Empowering change for over 40 years
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Archived Article

The Family Dinner

Parents want to ensure that their children grow up healthy and happy. No one wants a child who is difficult or gets into trouble. Preventing unhealthy, risky behaviors can seem like a mystery. There aren't parenting manuals that come with each child specific to all of the situations that are encountered as kids are growing up. Parents often worry about their youth getting involved with the wrong crowd, using illegal drugs, or getting in trouble at school or with the law.

Surprisingly, one of the best ways to prevent behavior problems is to sit down as a family for dinner every day. The family time provides parents an opportunity to connect with their kids and find out what is happening in their lives. It also gives parents time to talk about family values and what is important to do and not do. Family meals provide opportunities for working together as a family group. Even young children can help set the table or clean up after dinner.

Family time is a precious commodity in our busy lives. Youth are involved in many activities that can make finding a time for a family meal almost impossible. It is amazing how few families eat together. Kids and parents are on different schedules and often grab food on the run. Or they eat at separate times. There are many families that feed their children at earlier times than the adults. Perhaps this habit remains from infancy. Or maybe parents get home so late from their jobs that it is almost bedtime for their children. Many families have not grown up in homes that emphasized family meal times.

Parents may not realize how important it is to eat together as a family. Now that there is research on the preventive power of family meals, maybe more parents will insist on getting together as a family every day. Something so simple can mean fewer problems in the tricky teen years. Preventing problems is always easier than dealing with difficulties after the fact. Eat dinner as a family every day and prevent behavior problems. It's a good anti-drug program.

Suzanne H. Hetrick, Ph.D.
Staff Psychologist

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