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The Family Dinner Table: A Source of Strength, Good Mental Health

An interesting study by a pair of Emory University researchers recently found a simple yet wonderful way for parents to build self-esteem in their children, even when the bad times come, without a drug or throwing money at them: Sharing meals together.

Families who share meals together regularly have children who possess better self-esteem, know more about their own family history and face adversity with a higher degree of resilience. Moreover, those families who can openly discuss uncomfortable, emotional issues, like a death, raise children who have a better sense of control and higher self-esteem.

Scientists interviewed 40 families (with at least one pre-adolescent child) in the metro Atlanta area, and taped dinnertime conversations to measure how well they functioned. A couple of years later, scientists returned when children were approaching or already in adolescence to measure their progress.

Researchers noted the emotional strength evident in kids discussing family stories and shared histories. And, what's said and shared at the dinner table was just as important as how families talked about events together as a group.

One scientist lamented how families have abandoned the dinner-time meal at the risk of losing their ability to raise resilient children. Sad to say, not at all surprising to me, considering more than a third of Americans wait until the very last minute to make a decision about what to eat anyway and usually make poor choices when they do, more often than not leading to childhood obesity.

Science Blog October 12, 2005

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