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Story Time and Family Dinners Linked to Positive Emotional Health in Kids

Story time and family dinners linked to positive emotional health in kids
Photograph by Getty Images/Fuse

It should come as no surprise to parents that kids need daily routines to thrive. (No matter how hard they may try and fight you on them.) But new research is backing up the particular importance of regular family dinners, telling stories and even singing, after conducting a study on the emotional well-being of preschoolers.

According to Reuters, the study examined the daily routines of 8,500 preschoolers. By its end, each of the above routines were linked to a 47 percent increase in kids having what's known as positive "social-emotional health."

If you're wondering just what that means exactly, it basically boils down to good old-fashioned emotional and social skills. Dr. Elisa Muniz, the lead author of the study, and a pediatrician at the Bronx Lebanon Hospital in New York, told Reuters that these skills "allow children to express their feelings, understand others' emotions and develop and sustain healthy relationships with peers and adults."

And having strengths in all of those areas has one big payoff (in addition to just being a nice kid): It helps kids thrive in the classroom.

"There is strong scientific evidence that children who possess these abilities to a greater degree are more likely to succeed in school," Muniz said.

But while kids who took part in family routines were more advanced on the social-emotional level, there was one surprising exception these didn't seem to be linked to: reading.

Still, for Dr. Claire McCarthy, a pediatrician at Boston's Children's Hospital, the results of the study are a no-brainer. "When you are happy and secure, you are much more able to learn and interact in healthy ways," she told Reuters. "When (children) are unhappy, insecure, or unsure of their environment, energy goes into dealing with that, and not into learning."

You can read more of the study's findings here in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics Web site.

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