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Benefits of Family Meals

Today’s modern family has a lot going on. Kids of all ages are taking part in after school sports and clubs and more mothers are working than ever before. Dinner around one table, at the same, all together, may seem like a distant memory. It’s more likely that Jimmy has soccer until 5, Susie has gymnastics until 4, Mom and Dad are working until 6, and Grandma and Grandpa suddenly find themselves having a new career as chauffeurs in their retirement. Everyone is running on protein bars or fast food at various times. While it’s no doubt that scheduling a sit-down family meal together is not the easiest task, it can have huge benefits for children – and the family unit.

Kids Benefit Most from Family Meals

It may surprise you that family meals benefit children in many ways – from educational, to health, to social and behavioral benefits.

How to make the most of mealtime

There are a few key things you can do and steps you can take to make sure that family meals are enjoyable and engaging for everyone at the table.

    1. Show interest in family members by asking about their day
      1. Most people are tired after a long day at work, but asking about their day will make everyone’s day – whether it’s Dad asking Mom how her workday went, or asking the kids what they learned in school that day.
    2. Compliment each other and provide positive feedback, encouragement, and support when necessary
      1. Validate your family members by giving feedback and support. Let them know you’re listening and that you care about what they’re doing and saying.
    3. Turn off TV, cell phones, and any other electronic devices
      1. Cell phones are never far from being out of reach these days, but at the dining table it’s so important to keep them put away. Give your undivided attention to your spouse and children. Let them know that they are the most important thing to you.
    4. Do not interrupt or talk over one another
      1. Allowing everyone their turn to talk teaches children respect, communication skills, and allows them to feel comfortable expressing themselves without the anxiety of being cut off or interrupted by someone else.
    5. Plan and prepare meals together
      1. This is especially important for the kids in the family. Engaging them in the prepping and cooking will show them what foods are good to eat and teach them useful, lifelong skills.


Eating meals together as a family benefits everyone. Children develop educational, health, social and behavioral skills from these positive interactions, not to mention everyone generally feels closer and happier. Getting the kids involved in planning and prepping, then talking together – undistracted – at the dinner table are simple ways to start feeling the benefits of this age-old tradition. How will you make this a priority for your family?

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By Liz Kelly, Social Media Specialist, SMART Couples, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, University of FloridaReferences

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