Dinner Talk: What Kids Are Saying

Press enter to search
Close search
Open Menu

Dinner Talk: What Kids Are Saying


Part two of a 6-part series exploring Tyson Foods’ consumer research findings on the emotional significance of family dinners.

It’s widely accepted that eating together as a family matters. Studies concluding how important it is for families to sit down and eat the same meal at the same time at the same table abound. In fact, dinner may be the most reliable way for families to connect and find out what’s going on with each other amidst today’s ever competing distractions.

For parents, dinnertime is an opportunity to ask their kids questions, help them problem solve and show them they care, according to research from Tyson Foods, Springdale, Ark., and Syntegrate Consulting, a New York City-based strategic consulting firm. Moreover, the dinner table is an ideal venue for parents to express their values and beliefs and pass them down to their children.

Kids Want to Connect
Interestingly enough, Tyson Foods’ report on “The Emotional Experience of Family Dinners,” based on a unique research methodology that uses “storytelling” to evoke parents’ and children’s non-conscious emotional truths related to family dinner, also revealed that kids are much more aware of the emotional advantages of family dinners than their parents realize.

Among other findings, children said they looked forward to family dinners and assumed their parents would make family dinner a greater priority if the ritual was important enough to them.

“What we found very consistently when we spoke to kids is that they were just as in touch with the emotional benefits of being around the dinner table as their parents were, and the kids wanted it to happen more often,” said Christopher Brace, founder and CEO of Syntegrate Consulting.

“When we told parents what their kids said about family meals, they were shocked,” Brace continued. “A light bulb went off in their heads, and they would say, ‘Wow, we should be doing this more often. I had no idea the kids wanted us to do it.’”

Teen Perspectives
More surprising was Tyson Foods’ discovery that teenagers desired more quality time to connect with their parents, welcoming more family dinner opportunities.

Aside from bringing teenagers closer to their families, the report concluded that teens like knowing family dinner is something they can consistently count on, that it provides an opportunity to get to know their parents better, and that the dinner table is a “comfort zone” where they can relax and be themselves.

“The reassurance that no matter what, the family will get together at the end of the day contributes to building a sense of trust and confidence in children,” Tyson Foods’ report noted. “Quite simply, it helps them find their voice. All these benefits explain why they crave more time around the dinner table with their family.”

While technology is a major interest among teenagers, they admitted that too much screen time makes it harder for them to connect with their families at times, and many teens expressed a desire to log off at the dinner table.

“Despite parents’ perception that teenagers are only interested in their smartphone/laptop/iPad, kids are very aware of the limitations of those devices,” Tyson Foods’ research found.

Capitalizing on Emotional Triggers
Tyson Foods’ insights regarding kids’ and teens’ emotional views related to family dinner and their greater desire to bond with their families during meals can help retailers better determine when, how and where to connect with families outside the store, driving more traffic to their prepared foods departments.

“This deeper understanding of family dynamics and dinnertime behaviors will help retailers shift from selling ‘prepared foods’ to offering ‘dinnertime experiences’ supported by prepared foods,” Tyson Foods’ report concluded.


  • If we didn’t have dinner together, we may never see each other.
  • Family dinner means more quality time and family bonding.
  • Family is important.
  • You can bond anywhere; there’s no need to be strapped in one place.
  • The excitement of a vacation makes it easier to bond.
  • A memorable experience makes it easier to bond.


  • Social and Academic Pressure: Teens feel misunderstood regarding the pressures they face, particularly academics.
  • Protecting and Preparing: Kids seem to agree that parents can only protect them so much and wish their parents would focus more on preparing them to deal with life’s challenges on their own.
  • Meaning and Purpose: Few kids have a clear understanding of what their life’s meaning or purpose might be.
  • Definition of Quality Time: According to teens, quality time is a combination of spontaneity, fun, relaxation and effortlessness and can happen anytime, anywhere.

Next month’s look at the emotional significance of family dinners will explore three distinct family types and their parenting styles and mealtime behaviors.