Meal-time Tips

Dinner is a critical time during the day when the family has a chance to re-group and curate the family culture that binds us all together. With kids and grown-ups on the go, it's often easy to forget the importance of gathering around the table to eat…and the talk that takes place there centers your family.

Here are some tips to help make sure everyone is all together: The first thing you need to do is to make it a priority and to take a challenge to gather your family together four times a week. Teens who dine together with their family 4 or more times a week are twice as likely to get A's in school, so it's not just the culture, but it's centering your kids and gathering them and showing them the importance of what's going on in their lives.

First, resolve to eat dinner together -- it doesn't have to be gourmet -- it can be take-out. It just has to be relaxed and with conversation. Create a binder of your family's favorite recipes so that you can plan ahead on Sundays and shop to make those four meals during the week. When you cook, make a double recipe of sauce or the main dish, so that you can freeze it and have another dinner ready to go.

During dinner, turn off the TV and the radio. Declare this time a "no answering the phone" zone, so that you really have everyone's attention. If anyone is running late, make a hardy snack to tide everyone over or feed your younger kids early and let them eat desert at the family meal so that you're still gathering together.

Part of what you're doing is to "make it light" by not discussing problematic issues, but have everyone share the most interesting story from their day. Make it a time to laugh and connect and create this atmosphere around the table, then the kids look forward to this time and know that they'll have your full attention and that you can re-group together.