We all know that the afterschool hours and unsupervised summer days can be dangerous times for tweens and teens. Drug and alcohol use, sexual activity and other "troublesome" activities have all been shown to increase in the hours when kids are alone in an empty house. I was a fairly well-behaved kid, but the afterschool hours held another kind of danger for me when I was a middle-schooler: Overeating.
Those empty hours when my parents were at work and my high school-aged brothers were off at sports practices were the time when I first learned to see food as a source of comfort. If I had a bad day at school, I'd grab a snack -- or two. Bored? A bowl of ice cream would occupy my time. Lonely? A couple of cookies might make me feel better.
That's why new information just out from researchers with the University of Minnesota Project Eating Among Teens had me nodding my head. Among other things, the collected data indicates that kids crave connection and that feeling a lack of it has a strong influence on the development of eating disorders. "Lack of family connectedness, including not eating family meals together, was found to increase the risk of disordered eating behaviors in both young males and females," according to a release from the University of Minnesota.