Parents, if there was a program available that could build your children's self-esteem, deter them from smoking and drugs, and encourage them to eat healthier, would you enroll in it? Of course you would--immediately. Well, there is such a program, and it doesn't require an application, a download, or a click of a mouse. It's called family dinner. It's available to everyone, and there's no charge to sign up. Eating dinner together as a family is a tradition rapidly disappearing from twenty-first century American culture. Recent studies reveal that less than half of all American families sit down to daily meals at home. So what's happening to family dinner? It's being strangled; choked to the point of unconsciousness by the merciless schedules of working parents, after-school activities, video games, text-messages, and fast food. As we move at warp-speed through our workaday worlds with Smartphones and laptops in tow, family dinner is getting lost in the shuffle, and our families are suffering. What makes family dinner so crucial? Here are five important things dining together can do for your family: 1. Stimulate discussion "How was school today?" is a simple dinner time question that can keep you abreast of what's happening in your child's life. Asking at the table, where there are no distractions and undivided attention encourages in-depth, expansive answers. Ask the same question with the TV on, and you'll probably get a disinterested "okay." 2. Guarantee Face Time Even if a child's not talking, an attentive parent can gauge his mental state by observing facial expressions, demeanor, and mannerisms. Is he being bullied? Getting along with teachers? Struggling in math? He may not say anything, but one look can tell you something's wrong. 3. Break Down Barriers Kids have lots of issues these days, so it's important they feel they can open up when things get a little sticky. Children who eat with their families get more opportunities to communicate candidly and as a result, feel more comfortable confiding in their parents. 4. Foster Strong Relationships Eating together creates more quality time, which reinforces family closeness. Ignore what your teenagers may say about dinner being goofy, boring, geeky, or unnecessary. They appreciate the closeness, and someday they'll thank you for it. 5. Strengthen Spirituality Dinner time is the perfect time to pause and give thanks for food, shelter, and family. Saying grace reminds us to be thankful for blessings too many families take for granted. If you'd like your family to eat together more often, here are four easy steps you can take to make it happen: Start With Sunday If it's impossible to eat together every day, start eating together on Sundays. It doesn't matter if it's turkey with all the trimmings or tuna fish sandwiches. Make getting together a priority. Same Time Schedule dinner for the same time every day. Pick a time that gives everyone an opportunity to make it, and then insist that everyone shows up. Assign Chores If you have little ones, they can set the table or place the silverware. Older kids can prepare soft drinks, help with the cooking, or wash dishes. Assigning everyone a chore reinforces the importance of their presence. Turn Off the TV Nothing kills dinner conversation like a television blaring in the background. By all means, turn it off, along with Smartphones, i-pods, tablets, or anything else electronic. If there are no distractions, family members will be forced to talk to one another. Imagine that! Eat with your family as often as you can and watch your family grow stronger--One meal at a time!
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