Social media, screen time and increasing demands and expectations on society are taking their toll on our youth in the form of peer pressure, anxiety and stress; these factors can be a perfect storm for the risky behavior that often rears its head in the teenage years US News reports that “more than 90 percent of adults who develop a substance use disorder begin using before they are 18 years old,” and it is no secret that drug abuse, especially that of narcotics and heroin, are on the rise. Pressures are mounting to look, be, and score the best and this often leads to depression, stress, eating disorders, bullying, and drug use. In a high-tech age where expectations are at an all-time high and family communication and values are in question, many parents find themselves asking how they can protect their children from the threats that linger into young adulthood. As it turns out, there is a universal remedy to protect children from the threat of high-risk behavior, and it is, literally, sitting right before their eyes.
Communication and Education
According to a 2015 article in The Washington Post, eating dinner as a family has a host of benefits that impact children early and into young adulthood. By eating an engaging meal with the family frequently throughout the week, young children pick up almost ten times the vocabulary than those who were read storybooks alone. Forty percent of teenagers who ate dinner with their family several times a week reported making the honor roll and were twice as likely to make A’s and the family dinners were a predictor of higher achievement scores. The educational benefits of eating as a family are insurmountable, but the socio-psychological impact of gathering around the table are noteworthy as well.
A 2014 study conducted by the The American College of Pediatrics yielded some pretty staggering statistics about the impact of family dinners on high-risk behaviors on teenagers. Across the board, teens who ate with their parents more than two times a week were less likely to engage in drug use, sexual activity, alcohol, and nicotine use and less likely to suffer from depression and stress. Many parents who have successful yet busy careers may not have the time to spend on family dinners. While being able to provide a financially stable environment is great, spending time to listen to children’s is critical for preventing negative behavioral outcomes. An emotionally unsupported teen is more likely to engage in unhealthy behavior. When teens miss family dinners and start showing signs of drug abuse, treatment options like Diamon Ranch Academy. Taking the time to eat a family meal can prevent future heartache and help repair damaged relationships.
Eating and Nutrition
Children who eat with their parents are less likely to be overweight, more likely to eat healthier, and according to The Child Development Institute, their chances of developing an eating disorder are reduced by 35%. While the statistics indicate that children who ate with their family on a regular basis decreased their unhealthy eating habits and increased their healthy eating habits, studies show that what families are eating for dinner does not matter as much as how frequently they are doing it together.
Finding Time for Family Meals
Careers, extracurricular activities and scheduling conflicts can get in the way of some family meals. Most of the studies stress the importance of eating together more than twice a week, so try to save weekend dinners for each other and then make every effort to carve out at least two days during the week to make time for each other. After all, the numbers show that making time to share this experience as a family could be the single most important step parents can take for the sake of their children’s success and safety.