Environmental activist Laurie David, author of The Family Dinner: Great Ways to Connect with Your Kids, One Meal at a Time, thinks family dinners are important. Here's why you should, too.
momlogic: What was your inspiration for the book?
Laurie David: Honestly, I had an Oprah "aha!" moment. I had an epiphany sitting home at dinner with the kids about a year ago. It was a normal Tuesday school night -- I had a light bulb moment. We had been talking and laughing for about an hour at the dinner table. And I thought, "I've done one thing right as a parent: I've insisted on this family ritual."
For parents of teenagers, technology has taken over our kids' lives. A lot of parents are dealing with this. Everything about this technology is ripping us apart. My kids are addicted to their computers and their cell phones. If we didn't have this ritual, how would we be connected?
This worked ... this one thing. I spend so much time beating myself up about things, but this is what I've done right.
ml: Why did you write the book?
LD: I spent so many years trying to make dinner fun. I want to share it. I think this is an amazing gift that every day is giving us.
Everyone is so busy, but what is the price we're paying? I didn't know at first about the research. But I found out that everything you care about as a parent can be helped by eating dinner together -- it cuts down on drug use, alcohol use, promiscuity.
Everyone has to eat; why not do it in a way you'll get the benefits from it? And at family dinner, the conversation is just as important as the dinner is.
ml: What if you are just too busy for family dinners?
LD: I would say if you can't do dinner, do a ritual dinner, do a ritual lunch, do it on the weekends. Make sure you make enough to have leftovers! You could even do ritual tea time with sweet, cut-up fruit. Make that your ritual!
We need rituals -- we need them and our kids need them. When we were kids, we learned manners at the table ... we learned how to talk at the table. This is how we were all raised. For us to turn our backs on this today, we will pay the price. If you let your kids eat in front of the TV, they're not even aware of how much they're eating. They need to practice talking. They're not learning much about talking from texting!
The most common place that kids learn about their family history is at the dinner table. The number-one way to learn resilience is to learn about your family heritage. Talk about aunts and uncles and grandparents and what their challenges were.
LD: Half of all marriages end up in divorce -- that puts a lot of family rituals in danger when you need them most. I insisted that we sit down for dinner during that first year. I had a lot of friends and family come for dinner. Everyone has to behave a little better when they have company -- an ordinary dinner becomes a special occasion. Eventually I had the goal in mind to get my ex-husband to the table, too. He was here for dinner last night. He comes once a week or every other week. It takes two loving people in an amicable divorce.
ml: Do you have any rules at your dinner table?
LD: NO TECHNOLOGY at the table. If one of my kids does bring a phone and I see them glance at it, I take it and it's mine. You have to decide what your boundaries are. We're all dealing with this technology addiction that's everyone's got -- we have to be strong.
As a mom myself, I found parenting very challenging. Maybe I didn't have a natural instinct for it because I didn't have a good role model growing up, but I found everything very hard for me. I found myself very disappointed that I wasn't having sweet family moments. I thought, "I have to do something about this!" I've always loved to eat and have dinners. So I decided, "I am going to have good happy moments. I am going to create them, whether anyone else wants to do it or not!"
We're glad she did. Check out The Family Dinner: Great Ways to Connect with Your Kids, One Meal at a Time by Laurie David today ... it's the perfect gift!