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family-at-dinner-tableI sometimes sit back and reflect on how far I’ve come and from where I’ve been. I grew up in a rather small family with only one  younger brother. We never really had lots of cousins around the way my children do now. To see both sides of the coin has really given me some great perspective. My memories from childhood include always having dinner as a family. Unlike many households today where we run from one event to the next and grab dinner on the go, this can be a lost ritual.

In realizing the importance of health and wellness especially as it pertains to a family, I decided we could all use some better structure. For years now we’ve had a goal of sitting down to dinner as a family. Certainly there are nights where this works, others when it does not and some yet where it is difficult, but we manage to make it happen. I see the importance here enough to make it a family priority. Between all of the sports and activities, we find the time to sit down together and discuss our day if even for a brief time. This quality time we put in brings us closer as a family and allows our children to share stories and discuss their day with us. In a small way, this effort has further strengthened the bond we share.

It’s not always possible, but if you strive to accomplish this at least 3 nights a week, the results can be amazing for your kids and family. Given the importance of healthy food, I find the meal prep is equally important as the sitting down to eat it. If you allow your child to help you prepare the meal, they can gain a better understanding of the foods you are making and why they are good for you. In discussing where a certain vegetable comes from to how it’s grown can be fun and interesting in itself. Do your kids ever look at you funny when you are preparing something and ask, “there are eggs in that?” If so, you’ll know just what I mean. Studies show that families that eat together actually have decreased risk of obesity and much better overall health.

Some things to try:

1) Put the phones away
No iPads, iPods, iPhones or any other technology while you are engaging with your family. If you are focused on a computer screen, you are not focused on your family

2) Let your kids help you cook
Let them dig in and make a mess. It’s what memories are made of. Explain each step of what you are preparing and you may find you have a future chef on your hands.

3) Have them set and clear the table
Children thrive when given responsibility. By having them set and clear the dinner table you are teaching them just that.

These suggestions aim to give children the opportunity to learn in a way that can help establish good habits and responsibility from a very early age. Spending quality time together at the dinner table also aids in character building, social development and improved manners. Make it a family dinner night tonight!