Soccer practice, piano lessons, carpool, dance class, playdates – the list goes on and on….

These activities not only make our families extremely busy but are notorious for keeping us outside of the home. Many of us believe that it’s important to keep our kids busy and help them cultivate friendships, explore new interests and maintain social connectedness – all of which are beneficial. But busyness at the expense of time at home can be detrimental.  Most of our families – mine included – are so consumed with doing things that we are forgetting about the simple importance of mealtimes together. And as a result, our kids may suffer.

Many families overlook this simple task and don’t understand the long-term benefits of eating together. Believe it or not, students who eat 4-7 meals per week with their family are twice as likely to get A’s and B’s. Their counterparts who eat fewer than three times a week with their families report more distraction during these meals. TV’s are typically on; phones or other devises are allowed to distract and meaningful conversation is non-existent. The simple truth is that families where teens are frequently present at dinner find lots to talk about. Who knows, you may learn of your child’s new interest in sports or the arts or you may hear about troubles they are having at school or with friends. Whatever the conversation, capitalize on these times to check in with your kids. And don’t forget, mealtimes give our kids the chance to talk about things that are bothering them.

Teens and young adults who seek treatment for things like anxiety, depression, emotional problems and substance abuse, are about half as likely as their peers to have frequent and regular family meals. It’s a very simple truth: family dinners have a link to mental health.

Use these times to practice and model Assets #1 and #2: Family Support and Positive Family Communication. Study after study have found that teens who frequently eat with their families are more likely to say their parents are proud of them and these teens also say that their parents are people, they can confide in.

So, my challenge for each of us this week is to put down the keys and grab a fork! Set a goal – as a family – to increase the number of times you share a meal.