Strong communication during family dinners could improve the overall quality of life of children. Three medical researchers observed 215 asthmatic children during one family mealtime and found that those families that engaged in conversation during mealtimes had children whose asthma symptoms were less severe. Interestingly, those families that did not communicate with children but instead engaged in other activities during dinner (e.g., talking on the phone, watching television) had children who experienced more acute asthma problems.
But exactly how does quality time during mealtime actually affect a child’s health? As it turns out, speaking with a child during a meal, which lasted an average of 18 minutes in the study, allowed for parents to monitor asthmatic symptoms and react accordingly. Is the child wheezing or coughing frequently during dinner? Are they mentioning any pains in their chest when breathing? While the answers to these questions might be short – especially from teenagers – the answers could ultimately determine how the child’s asthma is treated. Further, children with strong communication in their households during dinner were also more likely to adhere to their medication regimen. Having parents follow up with children during dinner about having taken their medication resulted in a more routinized medicine schedule and children actually taking their doses when expected.
Researchers also found three ways in which healthy communication contributed to a longterm healthier lifestyle: children who ate with family members more often were more likely to eat fruits and vegetables, were less likely to abuse substances later in life, and were less likely to be associated with eating disorders. Simply taking the time to check in with your child, it seems, could ultimately save their life.