It’s a national epidemic. People are eating alone in ever-increasing numbers. According to the Census Bureau, 65% of Americans eat lunch alone at their desks. And Forbes reports that around half of all adult meals are eaten alone.
Taking the time to cook at home and to eat together has quite a few benefits, particularly for families. Children who eat with their parents at home are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables, says Fatherly, and conversation around a dinner table can improve their language skills. Eating together can also strengthen family bonding.
“It also helps [children] develop patience and dexterity through the use of utensils,” reports Fatherly. “And it helps them develop social skills that include manners and taking turns.”
According to The Atlantic, children who don’t share dinner with their family at least twice per week are 40% more likely to be overweight than kids who do. Kids who eat dinner with their parents five or more days per week are less likely to start abusing drugs and alcohol. And kids who eat with their families are less likely to skip school.
“Using data from three-quarters of the world’s countries, a new analysis from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found that students who do not regularly eat with their parents are significantly more likely to be truant in school,” reports The Atlantic.
Not only that, but children who eat with their families tend to have better grades. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA) says that kids who eat with their loved ones less than three times per week are two times as likely to get Cs or lower than the kids who regularly eat with their families.
After surveying thousands of American teens, CASA also found that teenagers who often ate dinner with their families were more likely to say they had good relationships with their parents.
“Compared to teens who had infrequent family dinners…teens who had frequent family dinners were almost 1.5 times likelier to have said they had an excellent relationship with their mother,” CASA reports, “and 1.5 times likelier to have said they had an excellent relationship with their father.”
Because family dinners improve relationships between kids and their parents, they also help lower the risk of kids smoking, drinking or using other drugs. “Parental engagement fostered around the dinner table is one of the most potent tools to help parents raise healthy, drug-free children,” says CASA.
“Simply put: frequent family dinners make a big difference.”