Marcia Segelstein has covered family issues for over 25 years as a producer for CBS News and as a columnist. She has written for FoxNews.com, “First Things,” “World Magazine,” and “Touchstone.” She is a Senior Editor for “SALVO” magazine and author of the book Don’t Let the Culture Raise Your Kids.
If you could have dinner with anyone—living or dead—who would you choose?
That’s the question an Australian company posed first to parents, and then to their children. Watch the results in this commercial for MasterFoods:
While the parents were quick to name a celebrity or someone of historical note, they were surprised and visibly moved by the unanimous choice their children made.
In fact, eating meals together as a family has been shown to have a number of benefits. The American College of Pediatricians examined a wide range of research studies on the topic and found so many benefits that they now recommend that their members encourage parents to partake of the family table. Better family relationships, healthier eating, better grades, and decreased drug and alcohol use by teens are just some of the advantages of frequent (defined as five per week) family meals. “When families regularly share meals together,” says the ACP, “everyone benefits – the children, parents and even the community.”
According to Drs. Jane Anderson and Den Trumbull, authors of the ACP analysis, sitting down with each other at the end of the day allows families to reconnect, to communicate, and to share values. Children like structure, and family meals help provide that. Dinnertime together is also a chance for children to observe how their parents interact and express emotions, and for the whole family to learn how to treat each other with respect.
Teenagers who have more frequent meals with their families are more likely to report having positive relationships with them. Specifically, it doubles their chances of having “excellent relationships” with their fathers and with siblings. They were also less likely to engage in sexual activity, and were less likely to experience depression and other emotional problems.
Sometimes the simplest things can make all the difference.