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A story to dine in on: Kids who sit down for family dinners are healthier and smarter

A story to dine in on: Kids who sit down for family dinners are healthier and smarter

Review: Today Ewan Sargent writes in the Sunday Star Times about the benefits of family dinners for children; although family dinners are decreasing across New Zealand.  The Dinners Make Families Survey commissioned by My Food Bag and the Sunday Star Times interviewed 521 children and 630 adults.  It found that we are eating together at home less often, primarily due to parents being too busy.  Whilst a generation ago three-quarters of children ate dinner with their parents each night, now only 51% do the same.  “We are letting this simple analogue mealtime face-to-face connection slip out of our lives,” Sargent wrote.  According to University of Auckland associate professors Dr Jennifer Utter and Dr Simon Denny, adolescents who frequently participate in family meals report better family relationsihps, better indicators of emotional wellbeing, and better eating behaviours.

According to Dr Simon Denny, those students who share family meals are healthier because, among other factors, they are less depressed and less likely to commit suicide.  According to professor Anne Fishel of Harvard Medical School, dinners are places where children can share positive experiences with parents – and “these small moments can gain momentum to create stronger connections away from the table.”  According to ToughLove New Zealand trainer Sytske Oldenburger, family dinners “really assists adolescents opening up communication channels.  It’s good for kids who may have shut down.”  Naturally, from a loneliness perspective, better family connection reduces the risk of child and adolescent loneliness.

Feature photo: Charlotte Martin and daughter Ava preparing dinner for the family. David White/Stuff.