Get Back to Family Dinner

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by Dr. Lynne Kenney

Families today are busy. With after-school sports and other activities driving of our lives, a sit-down dinner often falls off the "to-do list." But a family dinner is more than just eating vegetables; research shows that sitting down to dinner is an important protective factor in maintaining the health and well-being of your children.

Dinnertime is the perfect opportunity to relax, connect and talk about your day. It's a non-threatening environment that can really help your kids open up to you and tell you what's going on in their lives. It's your chance to get to know one another, learn about your likes and dislikes, and create memories. Make it relaxed, have fun and enjoy.

Not sure where to start? Here are two steps to getting back to family dinner:

1. Establish a set dinnertime: By making it part of your routine, it becomes a comforting norm. Dinner is anticipated and expected. You don't really have to be at the dinner table in your home. Make dinner wherever you are. Family dinner can take place anywhere, by the soccer field, in the driveway or while waiting for your daughter to get out of gymnastics. The key is to be present with your children, engage with them, take the time to get to know who they are as they change and grow.

2. Engage your children in activities that extend beyond the dinner hour: Help your kids do their homework after dinner. Play card games, make-up math fact fun, or paint, draw and write songs. Any activity that brings you together makes mealtime meaningful. Take your time, talk, laugh and talk for minutes or hours.

On the nights when you eat at the table, you can even establish a specific theme for each night of the week: