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A Fairy Tale for Modern Times - the Peaceful Family Dinner

Why does dinner at your house resemble feeding time at the zoo? Why is it so difficult to get your kids and husband to all sit down at the same time and share a peaceful meal?

I'm standing in the 12 items or less lane at the market, when I overhear a woman at the next checkstand moaning to the cashier, "Look at all this stuff! It's ridiculous: broccoli for my daughter the vegetarian, burritos for my son, steak for my husband – why can't they all eat the same thing? I can hardly keep track of it." "I know what you mean," clucks the cashier, "I don't think we've sat down to a meal as a family since Thanksgiving! Everyone coming and going – it's hardly a family anymore."

And I'm thinking –that's the real issue. It's not your different eating habits that cause problems, it's forgetting that sharing a meal is about your being together as a family. Research shows that when you sit down regularly with your kids for dinner, your kids are less likely to get in trouble, and your family functions better overall. But how do you do that when everybody has different tastes and different schedules?

Make an agreement that 3 nights a week, you all eat together – pick a time that works for everybody and commit to it. Involve your partner and your kids in preparing meals. Have everybody take turns with planning menus and doing the cooking – help the younger kids as needed, but let them do as much as they can. The more each family member is involved in making meals, the more they'll want to be there for it.

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