Regular family routines boost kids' social-emotional health

New research shows the many benefits children enjoy from regular family routinues, such as family dinners and storytimes.

Investigators at The Children's Evaluation and Rehabilitation Center (CERC) at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in New York found children who regularly engage in family routines exhibit higher social-emotional health (SEH), meaning they are better able to understand emotions, enjoy positive relationships with adults and other children, demonstrate empathy and otherwise control themselves as needed. Such abilities help children perform well in school and bode well for a child's "long-term outcomes."

The study was published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.

Researchers analyzed data from a large, nationally representative sample of preschool-aged children -- the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study - Birth Cohort from the National Center for Education Statistics. They reviewed 8,550 parental responses to questions such as how many times families ate dinner together each week and how often they played together, sang together and told stories.

Results showed 16.6 percent of children studied had high SEH, and 57 percent of those said they participated in three or more family routines. The study also found that for each additional routine that a parent and child did together, there was an almost 50 percent greater likelihood of having high SEH.

The researchers believe a nurturing environment that begins in early life and features regular family routines indicates "greater family organization" and helps children feel secure and loved.

The study supports previous research regarding family routines, such as a 2013 survey conducted by the UK's National Literacy Trust that found mealtime chatter can boost a child's communication skills and confidence.

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