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Make the Most of Family Meals

Time spent enjoying family meals can pay off in stronger connections. When possible, it is important to sit down together to talk and find out how everyone is. It's also a time when your children learn manners and respectful behavior toward one another.

Families can really benefit when dinnertime is established as a family value. Remember, too, that your children learn the most by watching what you do. Here are some suggestions for making family meals more meaningful.

First, it can be helpful to establish a “no phones” rule for dinner time. Unless there is an emergency, calls can wait until everyone is finished eating. Teens in particular seem to be absorbed by their phones at all times. But mealtime should be an occasion when you ask open-ended questions and discuss what is happening in each person’s life. (See Getting Teens To Open Up  if you need ideas for how to do this.)

Second, practice basic table manners together. I can remember my mother reminding me to chew with my mouth closed, to make sure there is plenty to go around before taking a second roll, or to ask politely for someone to pass what you need rather than reaching over their plate. These fundamental skills are not taught anywhere else, and poor manners can hurt your child socially and, at some point, professionally.

Spending time together like this brings a family closer. Even during adolescence, when teens act like they don’t want to be a part of the family, they really do need you to show how much you care about them. Most of us are so busy there is very little time for this kind of interaction. I encourage you to sit down together to eat a meal at least once each day. Of course, every family has weeks when activities and homework make dining together difficult. On those hectic days, find other ways to connect, like playing a game in the evening or even just sitting together and talking.


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