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Wilburn: Make family mealtime special

POSTED: September 17, 2008 5:01 a.m.

For many American families, shared mealtimes are less and less common. In a recent national study commissioned by the White House and the YMCA, one in four parents reported that their families eat together four or fewer times per week. In that same study, one in 10 admitted that they eat only one or no meals per week with their children.

Yet most families feel that it is very important for families to eat together frequently. Children benefit emotionally and physically from eating meals together as a family. Mealtimes create and support family identity.

A large national study of American teenagers found a strong link between regular family meals, academic success and positive psychological adjustment. In addition, rates of alcohol use, drug use, early sexual behavior and suicidal risks are lower when families eat meals together.

When parents and children eat together, they tend to eat healthier foods. Children eat more fruits, vegetables and dairy foods and less high fat, high sugar foods.

Mealtimes may provide a time and place for communication, relaxation and catching up on family news. Whether children are toddlers or teens, communication with parents is important.

Debbie Wilburn is county extension agent in family and consumer science with the Hall County Extension. Contact: 770-535-8290.


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