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How to establish family dinners

Vicki Clinebell majored in journalism at the University of Colorado, and headed an advertising agency before beginning a long career in broadcasting, spanning production and copywriting to sales and management for an ABC affiliate statio...

How to... Eat as a family

It's time to bring back the family dinner! Children need family meals as a time-out from their busy schedules -- especially once school starts -- and as an opportunity to foster communication and emotional stability in a safe setting. Find out how to establish family dinners in your home.

Family eating dinnerStep 1: Plan ahead

Time is scarce for busy parents, so plan ahead! Fill up your freezer with cook-ahead meals and your pantry with items that will help you put together quick and flavorful meals. When you make a meal, double up on the recipe and freeze half for another night.

Step 2: Work together

Get the kids involved in dinner preparation. Who says kids can't help? They can tear up salad greens, set the table, fill beverage glasses and do other easy chores that make them a part of meal prep. Praise them for their help!

Step 3: Make it fun

Children will look forward to the family dinner if you add a little fun. Why not establish a "Taco Tuesday" or "Family Grill Night" that features their favorite foods? Looking forward to a meal they especially like will guarantee they make it to the table on time. Let the kids make some menu suggestions, and plan your shopping to accomodate some of their choices.

Step 4: Establish a time

Consider after-school activities and work schedules, then choose a dinner time when everyone can sit down together. You may have to eat a bit earlier or later than you'd like, but that adjustment is offset by the reward of sharing the meal -- and the time -- as a family. If you find that you have to eat a little later, be sure to give the children a snack to tide them over until dinner. Healthy hors d'oeuvres, such as raw veggies and dip, are a quick treat that won't spoil their appetite for dinner.

Step 5: Avoid distractions

Family dinners are an opportunity to share the events of the day with each other, so don't allow distractions that can derail the conversation. Turn off the television, banish the Blackberry and iPod, step away from the computer and concentrate on talking and listening to each other. Make sure that each family member has a chance to talk and share the details of their day. Kids appreciate an opportunity to be heard and will look forward to their turn. The family dinner is a place where you can connect with your children in a relaxed and significant way.

Making the family dinner a ritual benefits everyone in the family emotionally and nutritionally. You'll also establish a stronger bond with your children through this tradition, so get started now!

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For more info on this topic...For more parenting tips, check out:
Get your kids' help with dinner

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