Q&A on Family Dinners

Q. We're trying to make family dinners a habit, but with a 4- and 5-year-old, it's difficult. How can we make the most of our time together at the table?

A. Family dinners are prime time to talk to your children, teach nutrition and manners, and model the way you expect your kids to treat others. It's tough to feel as if you're accomplishing all of that, though, since you can't expect kids this age to sit at the table for longer than 15 to 20 minutes. Instead, extend your "together time" by asking them to help you set and clear the table, and chat during those chores too, says Maggie Connolly, director of the Frank Porter Graham child-care program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Start conversations by asking your children to share one good and one bad thing about their day. "Encourage them to talk to each other too," Connolly says. "Their exchanges will provide you with all sorts of insights into what they're thinking." And beyond providing a nutritious meal, don't slave over the stove. The family dinner is not about food, it's about togetherness.

Copyright© 2005. Reprinted with permission from the May 2005 issue of Parents magazine.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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