ParentClick Santa Barbara

Family dinners make a difference


Make dinnertime or any meal you share together a successful and memorable experience for all…

“Family dinners can be a wonderful time of connection, communication, and fun,” adds Peggy Sapp. “Kids who eat dinner regularly with their parents are less likely to engage in risky and unhealthy behaviors. The statistics don’t lie — dinner makes a difference!”

Dinner-time should be “electronics-free” no cell phones, computers, electronic games or mobile devices. (Mom & Dad: this also applies to you.) Make a pact and sign a family pledge together.

Become a team — turn dinner-time into something everyone in the family looks forward to and participates together in planning. Let kids help with meal preparation and express your appreciation for their help. Assign a table-setter and let her/him choose the dishes, tablecloth and centerpiece. Plan next week’s dinner menu together, as a family.

Conversation is the main course — use open-ended questions like “What was the funniest thing you saw today?” or “What was the best thing that happened to you today?” to keep everyone talking.

Keep dinner-time positive — avoid discussions about discipline, arguments or broken rules at the dinner table.

Always sit together — at the table ; outside when weather permits; or have “picnics” together on the family room floor.

Create a special night to serve something only once per week — like “Sundaes on Sunday” or “New Recipe Night.”

Make a “You are special today!” place-setting — recognize family members when they achieve a goal, have done well on a test, won a sports award or made the Honor Roll.

Have fun and change things around — serve breakfast for dinner and ask everyone to wear their pajamas.

Remember, it’s the time together that counts — don’t worry about making an elaborate meal.

[Author: Peggy Sapp,]


Sharing family meals is simple yet effective tool in raising healthy children.

Did you know that children and teens who have frequent family dinners:

  • are at half the risk for substance abuse compared to teens who dine with their families infrequently.
  • are less likely to have friends or classmates who use illicit drugs or abuse prescription drugs.
  • have lower levels of tension and stress at home.
  • are more likely to say that their parents are proud of them.
  • are likelier to say they can confide in their parents.
  • are likelier to get better grades in school.
  • are more likely to be emotionally content and have positive peer relationships.
  • have healthier eating habits.
  • are at lower risk for thoughts of suicide.
  • are less likely to try marijuana or have friends who use marijuana.

[Author, Council of Alcoholism & Drug Abuse]

November 6, 2013

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