Use Dinnertime to Connect With Your Family

It’s the fourth and final week of the Real Simple Take Back Dinnertime Challenge. I’m partnering with Real Simple on their challenge because family dinners are important rituals that help families connect, communicate and stay healthy — both physically and emotionally.

The final week focuses on the connecting part. For me, this is the ultimate goal of taking back dinnertime – having dedicated and deliberate time to talk with my family. Sometimes the talk is not earth shattering. In fact with two boys and a very young-at-heart husband, sometimes the talk is pretty gross. There are times, though, when the boys bring something up that I know would have never come up if we hadn’t carved that time out of our day to consciously sit across from the at a table and give them the opportunity to speak.

At times we all need a little help starting conversation at the table that goes beyond, “What did you do in school today honey?” (“Nothing.”) That’s where games and conversation starters come in. In this week’s video, Real Simple's managing editor Kristin van Ogtrop and food director Allie Lewis Clapp share some ideas for getting the conversation rolling.

This might seem forced at first if you’re not used to doing much more at the table than woofing down your food and running off to the next thing. It won’t take long before family members are enjoying sitting at the table for a little longer and talking if you're consistent with it, though.

Here's another tip. Don’t allow cell phones, mp3 players, gaming systems, televisions, or computers to be used during dinner. In fact, keep those items out of the dining area if possible. This goes for the parents as well as the kids.

In addition to the ideas in the video, here are some other resources that I’ve personally used for starting a conversation.

Both “The Family Dinner” book and Mindtrap are on the console in our dining room, ready to grab if we need something to get the conversation going.

The Take Back Dinnertime Challenge will continue throughout the week on Real Simple. They’ll bring you “get connected” tips though the September 18th, when the challenge will end. And, I have it on good authority that later this week, Laurie David, author of “The Family Dinner” will be helping out the challenge with a guest post on Real Simple. You won't want to miss that.

What tips do you have for getting your family to engage in conversation during meals?