Why You Should Drag Your Reluctant Teen to the Dinner Table

By Becky Hand, Licensed and Registered Dietitian for SparkPeople

While it was easy to bring the family together when my children were young, it is much more difficult now that they've become teens. However, the simple act of eating together has so many benefits:

  • Family mealtime fosters family unity. Developing a sense of family identity and togetherness helps children and teens to feel safe and secure in a confusing world.
  • Family mealtime helps improve your child's nutrition since parents tend to pay more attention to what is served at home. There is an increase in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and dairy foods, with fewer fried foods and soft drinks. This also helps children to maintain a healthy weight.
  • Family mealtime helps prevent behavioral problems. The more often that a family eats together, the less likely teenagers are to become depressed, use illegal drugs, abuse alcohol, smoke cigarettes, or get pregnant.
  • Family mealtime helps children do well in school. Mealtime conversations improve a child's vocabulary, language skills, and verbal expression. This helps with classroom work and test-taking.
    But let's face it. Even on nights that the healthy meal is prepared and your teens come to the table, there is always the risk that they will clam up and have nothing to discuss. You will be viewed as the invading, nosy parent. So here are 10 conversation starters for the family:
  1. Tell a joke you think will make other family members laugh.
  2. Share something you think the family should plan to do in the future.
  3. Share how you performed while playing a sport or musical instrument today.
  4. What is the most interesting new song or piece of music you have heard recently?
  5. Describe an unexpected compliment you gave or received from someone recently.
  6. Give the highlights of a book you have read recently.
  7. Name 2 of the most important people alive (in your opinion) and share why you chose them.
  8. Share the most interesting new movie, DVD or TV show you have seen recently.
  9. If you could have a super power, what would it be and why?
  10. Share how your favorite team or player in a college or professional sport performed today.

For those of you with teens to feed, what is going on in your home? Are you able to get your teens to the table several nights a week? What topics are they willing to discuss? Any tips to share with our members?

Related links:

Will Improving School Lunches Affect Childhood Obesity?

Being Too Restrictive with Kids' Diets Could Backfire

Using Farmers Markets to Tackle Childhood Obesity

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