Family dinners are an everyday way to strengthen family bonds, find out what is going well for our children, and what they are struggling with.
It is an opportunity for family members to sit down, face-to-face, and connect in a genuine way.
It provides a sense of belonging that so many children desperately need.
Family dinners are an opportunity for young children to learn and practice communication skills, the give and take of conversation, and the reinforcement of appropriate table manners.
Young people can take great pride in participating in household responsibilities.
The daily tasks of setting and clearing the dinner table, and meal preparation help children understand that the family is a community within itself.
Family meal time provides an opportunity for teenagers to interact with their parents in a relaxed atmosphere and demonstrates open lines of communication.
Studies show the more often teens eat with their family the less likely they are to smoke, drink, or use drugs and the more likely they are to do well in school.
Recognize it is difficult to find a time for the entire family to sit together and parents need to be creative in how to make it happen.
One parent may need to delay dinner to accommodate a teen's later schedule.
Asking open-ended questions such as "Who did you play with on the playground?" or "What was the best part of your day?"will elicit answers that lend themselves to conversation.
Open-ended questions are great for any age and encourage children to become involved in a dialogue around the dinner table.
Remember to leave out criticisms, negative comments and focus on making this a relaxing, enjoyable time.
Family dinners that are practiced several times a week will provide support and stability for the entire family.
Turn off the TV and radio.
Opt for a weekend breakfast or a Sunday afternoon dinner.
At first there may be resistance, but continue to make this an enjoyable gathering and in time your family will look forward to this shared time.