News: children

7 Reasons to Eat Family Dinner Together

By Gen Cohen

Research shows that sharing dinner as a family improves teenage behaviors, increases toddler vocabulary and teaches kids to eat healthier. Check out these benefits of eating with family:

By Anne K. Fishel, Ph.D. via parenting.com

Over the last 20 years, dozens of studies have confirmed what parents have known intuitively for a long time: Sitting down for a nightly dinner is good for the spirit, the brain and the body. Research shows that shared meals are tied to many teenage behaviors that parents pray for: reduced rates of substance abuse, eating disorders and depression; and higher grade point averages and self-esteem. For young children, conversation at the table is a bigger vocabulary booster than reading aloud to them. The icing on the cake is that kids who eat regular family dinners grow up to be young adults who eat healthier and have lower rates of obesity.

As a working mother, who has learned by trial and error with my two sons and husband, and as a family therapist, who asks every family about their dinners, this is what else I've learned:

1. It doesn't have to be daily.

You don't have to have dinner every night to reap the benefits. It could be breakfast, a weekend brunch, a take-a-break-snack at night or a combination of these. And there's no magic number. The point is to make a commitment to a family meal where everyone sits down to share food, have fun and talk about things that matter.

2. Play with your food.

With so much of our play now conducted online, adults and children have lost the opportunity to play with real objects that can be touched, smelled and transformed. So play together. Cooking is an activity that still involves our senses and our hands, and it is something we still can do together. You can set out salad fixings and have everyone choose vegetables to create faces, trees and cars. Play with taste by slipping in a new flavor or spice and asking everyone to guess the ingredients.

3. It's doable.

Despite parent's hectic work schedules and kids' busy extracurricular activities, it's very doable to have nightly dinner. The whole process of cooking and eating together can take just an hour (less than 30 minutes to cook and the average meal is 22 minutes*), and that hour is transformative. If we still planted vegetables, played instruments for our entertainment and quilted on the front porch, we might not need family dinners, but it's the most reliable time of day that we have to connect with one another. When kids feel connected to their parents, it's like a seatbelt on the potholed road of childhood.

4. Try new activities and share talents.

Dinner can be a great place to try out new behaviors. A family dinner is like an improvisatory theater performance. The family shows up night after night, and as a group they can try out new ways of interacting with one another. Or, one member's behavior can set off a cascade of others. For example, a family might agree to refrain from making any negative comments at the table and see what happens. Or, a teenager might be invited to make a family dinner or to create a musical soundtrack for the meal.

5. Share your family history.

The dinner table is the best place to tell stories, and kids who know their family stories are more resilient and feel better about themselves. Most inspiring are lemonade-from-lemon stories, stories about adversity where a lesson is learned, or negative events that transform into something good. Stories help us make sense of the world, and they help kids connect to something bigger than themselves. Tell stories about yourself and other family members when they were the same age as your children. Tell stories about romance, first jobs, immigration, how names were chosen, a childhood pet, a favorite recipe or kitchen disaster.

6. Stay connected.

Table conversation is one of the richest language experiences you can provide for your children. When else do we sit and talk for several minutes, offering lots of comments and explanations on one topic? Try asking questions that go beyond, "How was your day?" For example, instead ask everyone to tell a rose (something positive) and a thorn (something negative) about the day, as well as a bud (what you wish will happen tomorrow).

7. It's good for you, too.

Rituals like dinner, which punctuate a world that often feels frenzied and out of control, are good for adults, too. Knowing that one part of your day is going to unfold in basically the same way, day after day, is comforting.

So, I'm ringing the dinner bell and inviting you and your family to come to the table. Dinner is more than a feeding station. Food will bring the family to the table, but it's the conversation and stories that keeps us there. In an hour, you can create comfort, fun, play and meaningful conversation—one meal at a time.

Anne K. Fishel, Ph.D., author of "Home for Dinner: Mixing Food, Fun and Conversation for a Happier Family and Healthier Kids," is the director of the Family and Couples Therapy Program at Massachusetts General Hospital and an associate clinical professor of psychology at the Harvard Medical School. She is the cofounder of The Family Dinner Project and writes the popular blog "Digital Family" for "Psychology Today." You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

*Ramey SL, Juliusson HK. Family dynamics at dinner: A natural context for revealing basic family processes. In Families, Risk, and Competence, Lewis M, Feiring, C. (eds.) New York: Rutledge, 1998.

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Take the Heat Out of the Kitchen! 20 Summer Crockpot Recipes

By Gen Cohen

Crockpots are a cold-weather essential, but if you're accustomed to putting your slow cooker away from April to September, you may want to reconsider. These 20 easy summer crockpot recipes do what the grill cannot, allowing your dinner to cook itself while you head off to work, summer camp carpool duty, or whatever else the day has in store From pulled pork to vegetarian lasagna that lets you put all of that seasonal squash and zucchini to use, you're guaranteed to find a few great summer crockpot meals ideas to get your family through the second half of summer.

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36 of the Best Gifts For Infants (besides our shades)

By Gen Cohen

Baby's first holiday or birthday can't pass unnoticed. Though they may have more fun with the box than anything in it, there are still plenty of fun gift ideas to add to their toy chest. From activity gyms and bead toys to an adorable rocker and the softest play mat ever, here are our 36 favorite baby gifts for this year!

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Skip the Gas Station With These Healthy Road Trip Snacks For Kids

By Gen Cohen

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11 Edible Slime Recipes Your Kids Will Want to Make Right This Minute

By Gen Cohen

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The 22 Books From the '90s That You Need to Read With Your Kids

By Gen Cohen

The '90s were a different time — we read books on actual paper rather than on a Kindle, and their storylines were simple and wholesome. Although plenty of bangers that were released in the '80s (and even earlier!) were still in your school library or your personal bookshelves in the 1990s (aka the best decade), these are the 22 nostalgic children's books from the 90s you should read to or with your kids ASAP.

Ahead, a blast from your bookworm past. 

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THE HAPPIEST BABY: DR. KARP'S 10 TIPS TO GET YOUR BABY TO SLEEP

By Gen Cohen

Image Source: Flickr user alphaone

There are few subjects that get new parents riled up as much as talking about their baby's sleep (OK, and maybe their poop). However much they're getting, it isn't enough and they're not sure how to get their tot to sleep more. "Sleep deprivation is the number one problem you face as the parent of a young child," says Dr. Harvey Karp, author of the wildly popular The Happiest Baby series of parenting guides, including his latest book, The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep: Simple Solutions For Kids From Birth to 5 Years ($16).

According to Dr. Karp, "Sleep deprivation is a horrible nuisance at best; at its worst it can lead to marital conflict and postpartum depression. It makes it hard for you to lose your baby weight because you're exhausted, so you're overeating and not exercising. It leads to breastfeeding failure because you're just so tired that you give up on it and even to unsafe sleep behavior because you get so tired, you just bring your baby in bed with you. You would never go to bed with your baby if you were drunk. But studies show when you're getting six hours of sleep a night or less, you're the equivalent of drunk. So all these moms are drunk parenting even though they don't know it."

So what's a new parent to do? Dr. Karp shared 10 tips from his book to get your baby to sleep. Keep scrolling and get ready for everyone in your home to start catching a few more Zs at night.

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6 Best Dog Breeds For Families With Small Kids

By Gen Cohen

It's not unusual for families to adopt a dog around the same time as having their own children. But are some dog breeds better suited for families with small children? We were recently asked that, so we reached out to Dr. Eva Radke, DVM, of the East San Rafael Veterinary Clinic in California to see what we could come up with.

There are various things to consider, according to Radke, aside from a dog just being a family-friendly breed. She recommends taking your own daily life into account. "Are you an active family who spends a lot of time hiking, running, and camping?" she asks. "Or do you tend to stay home cooking and enjoying movies? You will want to choose a dog whose temperament, size, and energy level best matches your family."

At the end of the day, it's also important to remember that your dog is just that: a dog. "Even the gentlest-mannered dog is still an animal with her own set of instincts and ways to express herself," Radke said. She suggests you never leave your small children unattended with the dog, just in case, and always supervise them when they're together. Your pup may always tolerate the ear and tail tugs from your kid, but you don't want to run the risk of the dog snapping one day when you aren't paying attention.

Scroll through to find the six best dog breeds for families with kids, based on each breed's typical personality traits.

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