Scheduling Family Dinners to Strengthen Family Bonding

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By Keri Cooper, LCSW NBCCH September 14, 2017

Fall is a crazy time for most of us between the adjustment to school, and fall sports being in full swing. In the craziness of life, we want to make sure our kids are getting what they need from us and that we aren’t losing our family bonds. 

In my practice I give families a number of tasks to strengthen children’s mental health. But what if I told you that just one change could make an enormous impact on your child’s emotional well being? Research from Frank Elgar in the Journal of Adolescent Health has shown that having family dinners greatly improves mental health in adolescents. Sitting down to a family meal increases emotional well-being and increases their life satisfaction. Family dinners also decrease emotional and behavioral problems. Even having one dinner a week together has an impact. 

The more dinners you have together the greater the impact. Sitting down together is a chance to reconnect, for children to feel heard and valued and for parents to be able to check in. If dinner seems impossible, try for breakfast or lunch on the weekends. The actual meal doesn’t matter; it's the act of sitting together. Make sure during meal time all screens are off, and phones are put away. If you feel stuck for conversation, you can start by asking everyone's high/low part of their day. Children especially enjoy conversation cards at the table. They are cards that ask random questions designed to help spur conversation. You can pick them up online or make your own. Even if you feel there isn’t much conversation going on, the impact on your child will still be positive. 

When you check your schedule for the week, try to schedule in meal time if you don't do it already. Every meal helps to strengthen family bonds, and improve your family's mental well-being.

About the Author

Keri Cooper, LCSW NBCCH, is a local mom of 4 and a professional holistic psychotherapist that specializes with children. Her private practice is Mind and Body by Nature located in Ramsey, NJ. Call (201) 256-4141 or visit for more information about how Keri can help you and your children live a balanced, healthy life.

Other Macaroni Kid Articles by Keri

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Disclosure: Mind and Body by Nature is a sponsor of Macaroni Kid Northeast Bergen.