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Why Family Dinners Matter

Imagine sitting down and connecting with your children every day in a cheerful, significant, and meaningful way. Sound impossible or completely unrealistic? It’s not. It’s called family dinner. Maybe you’re already cooking up a version of it that you’re not completely satisfied with. Maybe you’ve thought about doing it but can’t quite make it happen due to a nonstop stream of scheduling conflicts. Maybe you’re suffering from “over-screenitis,” the TV, computer, and BlackBerry sucking up most of your family’s downtime. Whatever the reason, if you are missing out on regular family dinners, you are missing out on the best part of the day. The importance of dinnertime cannot be underestimated, and when done well it will rock your world.

A decade ago, as a young mom with two little girls, I started doing daily family dinners. At that time, I didn’t know about the amazing research proving that everything a parent is concerned about can be improved by sitting down to dinner. I started regular family meals because I wanted us purposely to be a family, not just a group of people living under the same roof. I was depressed that I wasn’t having enough happy, memorable, cozy family moments, and I decided to do something about it. Dinnertime seemed like the perfect solution; after all, everyone had to eat!

I started my family dinner rituals with friends and extended family, establishing “taco Tuesday”, and “make your own grilled cheese” Wednesday. I quickly discovered that if I employed a few tricks, and made sitting down a priority, I would be rewarded with a giant shift in attitude (from my kids and myself!). Dinner became an opportunity, a gift each day gave me, rather than a chore to get through.

As my kids have gotten older, I see how truly instrumental those dinners, meal after meal after meal, have been in keeping my family connected to each other in good times and bad, even through a divorce and during the “difficult” (boy is that an understatement) teen years. Those dinners helped my kids establish a love of veggies, an appreciative palette, a habit of drinking water and the security to express their feelings. The dinner table has been the main place they practice how to listen, debate and discuss.

So, if the computer or television is stealing dinner hour from your family, grab it back and sit down, together. It will surely be the highlight of everyone’s day. And the best news of all is that you get to do it all over again tomorrow!

Looking back, I am happy to report that I have been rewarded with many, many, fun, meaningful, joyful dinners. So many, that I decided to write a book about it, “The Family Dinner: Great Ways to Connect with Your Kids, One Meal at a Time,” and it’s filled with all the great recipes, conversation starters and ideas that I have used to smashing success.

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