Importance of Family Dinners

Anne FishelToday’s guest post comes to us from Anne Fishel, co-founder of the Family Dinner Project, professor at Harvard Medical School, and the author of “Home for Dinner.”

Each year, more than 9 in 10 Americans gather around the table with family and friends for the holidays. But only 50 percent of us eat with our family on a regular basis. That’s too bad. Twenty years of research has shown that family dinners are great for the brain (enhancing preschool vocabulary and raising test scores), body (improving cardiovascular health in teens and lowering the odds of obesity) and spirit (reducing rates of behavioral problems, stress and substance abuse). But in extolling the virtues of the family dinner, we may have obscured what the meal is actually about and why it serves parents and children. In that gap lies a thick stew of myths.

  1. Teens don’t want to eat with their parents….

Yet the scientific literature paints a different picture. Most teens value their relationships with their parents. This is true at the dinner table, as well. About 80 percent of teenagers say they’d rather have dinner with their families than by themselves.

  1. Family dinners are anti-feminist….

But embracing family dinners doesn’t have to mean conjuring a vision of June Cleaver in her spotless 1950s kitchen. Today, men are far more likely to help. Between 1965 and 2008, men nearly doubled their time spent cooking, and 42 percent of men now cook as often as their wives.

  1. Family dinners depend on being homemade.

Of course, homemade meals are usually healthier and lower in fats, salt, sugar and calories than store-bought alternatives. But the benefits of family dinners don’t depend on what you eat. More important is the opportunity to engage with your children and learn about their day-to-day lives.

To read the other two myths, click here.

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About Nelson Searcy

Nelson Searcy is an experienced church planter, coach and church growth strategist, working with churches in over 45 denominations. Nelson is also the Founding and Lead Pastor of The Journey Church, with locations across New York City and in San Francisco and Boca Raton, FL. He first developed the Assimilation System 10 years ago at the Journey Church and has since implemented and improved these strategies with over 3,000 churches across all sizes and denominations. He started coaching pastors in 2006 and has personally coached over 2100+ senior pastors, helping them break common growth barriers like 125, 250, 500, 1000 and beyond, all while maintaining personal life and ministry balance. As founder of Church Leader Insights and the Renegade Pastors Network, he has trained more than 50,000 church leaders (3,000+ church planters). He is the author of over 85 church growth resources and 17+ books, including Fusion: Turning First-Time Guests Into Fully-Engaged Members of Your Church and The Renegade Pastor: Abandoning Average in Your Life and Ministry. His continued mission is to help church leaders around the world cooperate with God in creating healthy, thriving churches. Nelson is married to Kelley and together they have one son, Alexander.

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