Family Meals Matter: Staying Connected
Staying connected isn't easy. In many families each member goes off in a different direction: work, school, after-school and social programs, and many other activities. Statistics tell us that Americans spend 40 minutes a week playing with their children, and members of working couples talk to one another an average of only 12 minutes a day. Kids spend more and more time in after school activities-sports, hobbies, clubs, and religious instruction. Fitting in family time is becoming harder and harder. In the past 20 years structured sports time has doubled, family dinners have declined 33% and family vacations have decreased 28%. As parents are working harder and longer and kids' schedules are more and more crowded, there is a decline in ordinary family togetherness such as talking during mealtime or going to family celebrations.
Are kids being short-changed? Are they missing out on the experiences that family connections provide? Studies tell us that depression, anxiety, substance abuse among children and adolescents have increased significantly. Is there a connection? The good news is that parents can make a difference. Numerous polls have shown that teens want more, not less, time with their parents and value their parents' opinions. Studies also show us that parent involvement has positive effects on adolescent tobacco use, depression, eating disorders, academic achievement, and other problems
What is parent-child connectedness?
It's an emotional and mutual bond based on warmth and trust that starts early and has a powerful impact on a child's development. As the child grows, connectedness happens in different ways. In the early years the parent-child connection means touching, feeding, guiding beginning language and social/emotional development. Connections keep expanding and changing and by the pre- and teen-age years connection means sharing thoughts and ideas, problem-solving together, respecting autonomy. During these years parents and adolescents find the delicate balance between staying connected and letting go.
Reprinted with the permission of the NYU Child Study Center. © NYU Child Study Center.
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