A couple of articles at the pediatrician’s office caught my eye the other day. Each covered a different aspect of every day life, but they all came to the same conclusion: we all do better when we slow it down and sit down to a family meal as often as possible.
I was startled at first by several of their statistics, but after a quick pause and ponder, I realized that I should not have been surprised. Most teenagers only eat 3-4 dinners per week as a family. That’s a lot of time alone or off with friends, and when you consider that practically no one eats breakfast and lunch as a family, that’s a big hole in the “family time” section of their DayTimer.
Only about one-third of all teenagers eat breakfast. One-third. Which explains why all of my kids come into second period clutching a Monster, RockStar, or Red Bull.
We all worry about our weight, but most folks from my generation didn’t start worrying about it until they hit their 30s. Today, 70% of teenage boys and 85% of teenage girls report that they tried to lose weight in the last year. While there is an upside to health consciousness at an early age, there is a definite downside to weight obsession.
Computer usage is on the rise, physical exercise on the decline. Teenage boys want killer abs, but they want them by popping MegaMass 5000 pills and then starving themselves, not by getting outside and playing.
The hours spent watching television is either falling or holding steady, depending on the study, but these hours are not being replaced by exercise. The web and gaming is getting these extra hours. But even if television consumption is not rising, there is a correlation between the presence of a television in a teenager’s bedroom and his health and grades. Kids with TVs have half of a grade lower GPA than kids without. Kids with TVs also eat one fewer meal per week with the family. Interestingly, poorer kids are more likely to have a TV in their room than richer kids.
We can’t fix this with all at once or with a miracle pill or silver bullet. But a step in the right direction has to be slowing it down and spending more time around the dinner table. Take advantage of those weekends with a big family breakfast. And get the kids involved in the meals.
(I know… easier said than done…)