Taking time to talk with your children about current events, and adding in a little math, can help students develop better reasoning and math skills – and perform better at school, according to a new study from the University of Buffalo. Families can try this approach as part of a ritual that’s been around for ages: The family dinner.
For many families, group dinners have become extinct – but not at the Cleveland house.
“We probably eat dinner together six times a week as a family,” says Julie Cleveland, mother of two. “It’s extremely important because that’s where we meet and catch up on our day.”
According to a study conducted at the University of Buffalo, beyond catching up, talking to children about current events – like the gulf oil spill — can help develop real-life reasoning and math skills.
“If you have dinner with your family, including your kids, five nights a week, you have amazing results,” explains psychologist Nancy McGarrah.
In addition to building math and science skills, teens who eat dinner with their family are half as likely to smoke, a third less likely to try alcohol and 70 percent less likely to have a substance abuse problem. Experts say it’s all about communication.
“It’s not necessarily a heavy duty philosophical talk… it’s more just communicating about their day, school friends, and you learn a lot,” says McGarrah.
And, she says, making that time can show your kids just how much you care.
“I think it gives kids a definite message to kids if they see that their parents make an effort to be home during that time,” says McGarrah. “Even if it’s a couple days a week, it’s a start and I think their kids will be happy that the parents are making that effort.”
Julie says with their busy schedules, making time to sit down together can be tough, “Cause Kellie has dancing and Luke has basketball and some nights are more difficult than others.”
But the kids say it’s totally worth it.
“I think it’s really special,” says Kellie.
Luke agrees, “I like it a lot, cause it’s very fun.”
What We Need to Know
According to a study by a University of Buffalo professor, talking with our children about current events (like the gulf oil spill, for example) can help students develop reasoning and math skills. Despite busy schedules, eating dinner together as a family has lots of benefits.
Compared to teens who have frequent family dinners (five to seven per week), those who have infrequent family dinners (fewer than three per week) are more than twice as likely to say that they expect to try drugs in the future, according to a new report from The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA*) at Columbia University.
Experts recommend these strategies:
- Eat dinner at the table with no other distractions, like the TV. Your “audience” will be much more captive without other things going on.
- Try not to make the dinner table a battleground. Don’t nitpick over rules, manners and finishing the meal. If parents are nagging the kids the whole time they aren’t going to enjoy eating meals with the family.
- A main reason why family dinners are so infrequent is because of conflicting schedules. Make a point to place dinnertime as a top priority.
- Of course, there are no “silver bullets’ for eliminating teen substance abuse. But parental engagement around the dinner table is one of the simplest, most effective ways to reduce any risk.
About the Program
Despite busy schedules, eating dinner together as a family and talking with our kids has lots of benefits. Discussions about current events and what happened during their day can help students develop reasoning, interpersonal and even math skills.