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Editor's Note:  "Borderlines," BAMHS' periodic column, provides ideas and suggestions for healthy living, better family life and successful strategies for coping with life's challenges. Our newsletter is updated frequently! Check back often.
Sit down to a family dinner
Posted: May 4, 2011
Last Updated: May 4, 2011


Dinner time might be the most important meal of the day for children. Recent studies have found that children who eat with their parents three or more dinners a week have incredible resiliency, less drug use and even lower obesity rates. To get all these benefits family’s just need to pull a chair up to the table and sit down to share a meal.


Previous studies on the impact of family meals, by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, found children who reported eating three or more family dinners a week were less likely to smoke, drink alcohol or use other drugs. More recently, the journal Pediatrics found that the same amount of shared family meals impacted the weight and food choices of children and adolescents.


If children sat down to dinner with their family, they were less likely to be overweight, chose healthier foods, and less at risk for eating disorders.  In addition, the children were 24 percent more likely to eat foods like fruit and vegetables, partake of breakfast and more likely to take a multivitamin.


And adolescents who eat with their families tend to skip junk food like sodas, candy, sweets or fast food. They are even less likely to eat fast food or junk food with their friends.


So how can you sit down to family dinners, and maybe make it more fun for the whole family?


First, turn off the television. Family dinners are for focusing on each other, not the tube.


Next, try a game or activity to start the conversation. Here are a few ideas:


Bring a Friend– Have the children invite a friend to dinner. It’s a great chance to met their friends and learn more about them. This is especially important during adolescents when chidlren are more likely to turn to friends than family for support.


Worst & Best-Take turns going around the table saying the worst and best part of the day. Parents take a turn too, sometimes opening up about your experiences can make kids feel more comfortable, and confident, to share their experiences.


Family Favs– Have family members write down their favorite meals, and plan for one member’s favorite meal each week. Children can help prepare their favorite meal and spend quality one-on-one time with parents while they all cook together. Better yet, children learn to cook food they like!


News Night-Everyone shares news from their life. What are friends doing? How are activities going? Any big changes? Give the family a 30-second to update on life, just like an anchor on the nightly news. It can keep parents aware of what there kids think are the big events in their lives.


Personal Pizza– Make or buy some pizza dough. Have everyone kneed and roll their own pizza and select their own toppings. It is cheaper than take-out, and gives everyone a chance to talk while creating a favorite pizza.


If you need more ideas on how to gather your family together call Border Area Mental Health Services. To reach Border Area Mental Health Services in Grant and Hidalgo Counties, call 388-4412; in Catron County, call 533-6649; in Luna County, call 546-2174.  For CRISIS, call 538-3488 or outside Silver City, call 1-800-426-0997.

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© 2008 by Border Area Mental Health Services and Putting the Web to Work. Front-page photo copyright by Bob Pelham, Pinos Altos Cabins, and used by permission. All rights reserved. For the privacy and comfort of our clients and staff, the photographs used in this site are representative and do not show specific individuals associated with BAMHS.