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FAMILY DINNERS
By Claire Marketos

In today’s hectic world it can be difficult to find the time for the family to all come together. Parents get home after the children have gone to bed, and teens are eating their dinner in front of the television. Communication in the house is hurried and often argumentative and everyone is feeling tired and stressed. So how do you reconnect with your children and improve communication?

You schedule connection time in your day, the same way you schedule extra murals or social events. Having a family dinner where you all sit down at the dining room table to eat with no distractions, is a great way to facilitate conversation with your children and should provide a safe forum for them to express their feelings.

 
Ask them questions, but try to avoid getting into arguments. Listen attentively and acknowledge their feelings. Use this time as an opportunity to teach effective problem solving techniques, by debating the possible outcomes to a problem. Allow your teen to decide based on the discussion as to the best possible solution to a problem.
 
The importance of the conversations between parents and children at family dinners was highlighted again in recent research by Columbia University: “The more often children have dinners with their parents, the less likely they are to smoke, drink or use drugs, and that parental engagement fostered around the dinner table is one of the most potent tools to help parents raise healthy, drug-free children. “ J.A. Califano, Jr. The study also revealed that most teens recognise the importance of family dinners and 60% wish they could have dinner with their parents more than five times a week.
 
Having dinner together can also be a great way to introduce new foods and to model good table manners and eating habits, especially for younger children. Be upbeat about foods the children don't want to eat by encouraging rather than forcing them to eat those foods.
 
Getting together as a family for breakfast can be an option if you find it difficult to meet for dinner, but set aside enough time for relaxation and conversation. If the children are feeling rushed they are unlikely to open up.  
Eating together is a wonderful way to strengthen family ties, and you will be amazed at the things you will learn from your children. "Food to a large extent is what holds a society together and eating is closely linked to deep spiritual experiences."Peter Farb and George Armelagos

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