Making Family Meals Happen

Plan
Look over the calendar to choose times when everyone can be there. Figure out which obstacles are getting in the way of more family meals ó busy schedules, no supplies in the house, no time to cook. Ask for the family's help and ideas on how to get past these roadblocks.
Prepare
Once you have the kitchen stocked, involve the kids in preparation. Itís good for them and for you. Recruiting younger kids can mean a little extra work, but it's a good investment of your time.  Simple tasks such as putting plates on the table, tossing the salad, pouring the water, folding the napkins, or being a "taster" are appropriate jobs. Older kids can pitch in more by getting ingredients, washing produce, mixing and stirring, and serving. If you have teens around, consider assigning them a night to cook, with you as the helper.
Enjoy
Make your time at the table pleasant and a chance for everyone to relax and enjoy being together as a family. Family meals should be dynamic -- an exchange of ideas, conversation and feelings. Turn off the cell phones, television, video games and computer.
Family meals are a good time to teach civilized behavior so set some rules about staying seated, passing items instead of grabbing them, putting napkins on laps, and not talking with a full mouth. You can gently remind when they break the rules, but try to keep tension and discipline at a minimum during mealtime. The focus should remain on making your kids feel nurtured, connected and part of the family.
 Keep the interactions positive and let the conversation flow. Ask your kids about their days and tell them about yours. Give everyone a chance to talk.