We can strengthen the rising generation by assuring they have adequate time with their family, particularly mothers. Family time is critical to helping our children and youth to avoid delinquent behavior. When we give the rising generation enough of our quality time, we strengthen them and thus strengthen our communities and nations.
Researchers at the University of Toronto and Bowling Green State University recently released a study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family. The research “provides empirical support for the idea that a mother’s time is irreplaceable to her child’s development” according to the authors. They used data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics Child Development Supplement to evaluate “the time mothers specifically spent with children in the 3-year-old to 11-year-old age bracket and the 12-year-old to 18-year-old age bracket. They analyzed how that time related to the child’s behavioral, emotional and academic performance.
“`In childhood and adolescence, the amount of maternal time did not matter for offspring behaviors, emotions or academics, whereas social status factors were important.’ The study authors wrote. `For adolescents, more engaged maternal time was related to fewer delinquent behaviors, and engaged time with parents together was related to better outcomes. Overall, the amount of mothers’ time mattered in nuanced ways, and, unexpectedly, only in adolescence.’”
So, how much time with family is needed? Children and teens need at least six hours per week or a little less than an hour per day. Co-author Melissa Milkie with the Toronto University spoke with the Washington Post and said that “this study emphasizes quality time over the quantity of time. `In an ideal world, this study would alleviate parents’ guilt about the amount of time they spend and show instead what’s really important for kids,’ she said. The amount of time doesn’t matter, but these little pieces of time do,’ Milkie said, according to the Post.”
I am very interested in the minimum amount of family time needed by the rising generation – approximately an hour every day. How can we involve our families in one hour of quality time every day? One of the most important ways to do this is to eat dinner together every day!
Cody C. Delistraty had personal experience with the importance of eating dinner with family. His mother passed away, and his older brother left home; Delistraty and his father stopped eating dinner together – eating with friends, eating in front of the television, etc. Just before Delistraty left home for college, his father suggested they start eating dinner together again.
“It wasn’t ideal, of course – the meals we made weren’t particularly amazing and we missed the presence of Mom and my brother – but there was something special about setting aside time to be with my father. It was therapeutic: an excuse to talk, to reflect on the day, and on recent events. Our chats about the banal – of baseball and television – often led to discussions of the serious – of politics and death, of memories and loss. Eating together was a small act, and it required very little of us – 45 minutes away from our usual, quotidian distractions – and yet it was invariably one of the happiest parts of my day.”
Delistraty did some research where he found that not eating dinner together resulted in more truancy and more obesity in the rising generation. “There are two big reasons for these negative effects associated with not eating meals together: the first is simply that when we eat out – especially at the inexpensive fast food and take-out places that most children go to when not eating with their family – we tend not to eat very healthy things. As Michael Pollan wrote in his most recent book Cooked, meals eaten outside of the home are almost uniformly less healthy than homemade foods, generally having higher fat, salt, and caloric content.
“The other reason is that eating alone can be alienating. The dinner table can act as a unifier, a place of community. Sharing a meal is an excuse to catch up and talk, one of the few times where people are happy to put aside their work and take time out of their day. … “
So it seems that eating dinner together at home as a family can strengthen our children and youth in two different ways – physically with better health and psychologically with better mental health.
This site lists eight reasons why eating dinner together as families is good for the rising generation. All of the reasons are good, and this one is particularly applicable to this discussion. “Eating family dinners at least five times a week drastically lowers a teen’s chance of smoking, drinking, and using drugs. Teens who have fewer than three family dinners a week are 3.5 times more likely to have abused prescription drugs and to have used illegal drugs other than marijuana, three times more likely to have used marijuana, more than 2.5 times more likely to have smoked cigarettes, and 1.5 times more likely to have tried alcohol, according to the CASA report. `While substance abuse can strike any family, regardless of ethnicity, affluence, age, or gender, the parental engagement fostered at the dinner table can be a simple, effective tool to help prevent [it],’ says Elizabeth Planet, one of the report’s researchers, and the center’s vice president and director of special projects.
I like this reason also: “Of teens who eat with their family fewer than three times a week, 20% get C’s or lower on their report cards, according to the CASA report. Only 9% of teens who eat frequently with their families do this poorly in school. Family meals give children an opportunity to have conversations with adults, as well as to pick up on how adults are using words with each other, which may explain why family dinnertime is also thought to build a child’s vocabulary.”
We can strengthen our communities and nations by spending an hour a day together as families. Since we all need to eat, we can have quality and quantity time together as families if we choose to eat dinner together. Some families lengthen their time together by working together to fix the meal and clean up the kitchen. We can strengthen the rising generation, our families, our communities, our and nations by eating dinner together as a family!