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The Around the Table project has been designed based on research showing that quality family time together, particularly around the dinner table goes a long way in promoting healthy well-adjusted children. The following excerpt is taken from an article written by Bri DeRosa of ”The Family Dinner Project” at Harvard University.

DeRosa states, “As a family therapist, I often have the impulse to tell families to go home and have dinner together rather than spending an hour with me. And 20 years of research in North America, Europe and Australia back up my enthusiasm for family dinners.

It turns out that sitting down for a nightly meal is great for the brain, the body and the spirit. And that nightly dinner doesn’t have to be a gourmet meal that took three hours to cook, nor does it need to be made with organic arugula and heirloom parsnips.

For starters, researchers found that for young children, dinnertime conversation boosts vocabulary even more than being read aloud to. Kids who have a large vocabulary read earlier and more easily.

Older children also reap intellectual benefits from family dinners. For school-age youngsters, regular mealtime is an even more powerful predictor of high achievement scores than time spent in school, doing homework, playing sports or doing art.

In addition, a stack of studies link regular family dinners with lowering a host of high risk teenage behaviors parents fear: smoking, binge drinking, marijuana use, violence, school problems, eating disorders and sexual activity.

There are also associations between regular family dinners and good behaviors, not just the absence of bad ones. Researchers have shown that teens who dine regularly with their families also have a more positive view of the future, compared to their peers who don’t eat with parents.

Of course, the real power of dinners lies in their interpersonal quality. If family members sit in stony silence, if parents yell at each other, or scold their kids, family dinner won’t confer positive benefits.

Sharing a roast chicken won’t magically transform parent-child relationships. But, dinner may be the one time of the day when a parent and child can share a positive experience – a well-cooked meal, a joke, or a story – and these small moments can gain momentum to create stronger connections away from the table.”

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Kaye Frataccia is the program manager for Around the Table. This column solely represents the writer’s opinion.

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