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Family Meal Conversation Starters

With today's hectic lifestyles, it's sometimes hard for families to stay connected.

It may seem like a simple, old-fashioned tradition, but recent research shows just how important family meals are - children and teens who eat regularly with their families are: Less likely to: Use drugs Drink alcohol Smoke Feel depressed And more likely to: Do well in school Have healthier eating habits Have positive peer relationships Be emotionally content

Providing healthy family meals more often can be easier and more enjoyable than you think. Here are some tips to help you get started:

Plan ahead. Write down a weekly dinner menu and post it on the refrigerator. Children look forward to it--especially if you make it sound good! Get everyone involved. For example, one family has the children set the table while dad cooks. Then mom and the children clean up. Establish clear expectations. Family rules may include: No phone calls or text messages during dinner, be polite to the cook, ask to be excused, and clear your dishes. Slow down. To create a calm environment, try an occasional candlelit dinner. Keep it pleasant! Don't use mealtime to resolve family conflicts or discuss school problems. Turn off the TV! This is your time to connect. Don't expect too much from the cook. A balanced meal is a balanced meal--whether it was cooked from scratch or came out of a box!

These conversation starters will help you connect with your children at the dinner table, in the car or whenever you get the chance to talk.

What is something you want to learn how to do and why? How can adults and children show respect to one another? If you knew you would be stranded on a desert island for a year, what would you bring with you? If you could start a new family tradition, what would it be? What was your favorite family vacation and what made it your favorite? What is one of your favorite movies or books? Why? Describe ways you can show kindness to others at home or school.

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What makes you feel good about yourself? Under what circumstances do you find it hard to say no? What would you do if you were a King or Queen? What makes you angry and how do you express anger? How do you know when you can trust another person? Do you learn more when you win or when you lose? Tell us more. What is the most important thing in being a good friend? Does your life feel too busy? Why? Does our family seem too busy? What should change? What's the best or worst thing about being your age? What is the toughest thing about being a kid/grown-up/ parent? My dream job/career is... Why? If I could change something at school/work it would be... What teacher will/do you remember and why? Describe your perfect day. Where would you be, who would you be with, and what would you be doing? Describe something that happened to you today. What are you thankful for? If you could have any foods you wanted for dinner, what would you eat? Why do people choose to smoke? What makes someone a good leader? Name someone who is a good leader. What is your most valued possession? Why? If you were a billionaire what would you do with all of your money? What is the hardest thing about being a boy or girl in this society today? What is the best or worst thing about being the oldest/middle/ youngest/only child in the family? What is something (not someone) that bugs you? Something I wish my family would do more of is... Why are some kids picked on at school? What would you do or wish you could do when someone is being picked on? What's your favorite physical activity and why? What do you think makes a person a success? What things/people make you happy?

Brought to you by the Dakota Partnership for Healthy Communities

- Adapted from SSP Project Northland & Tri-City Partners for Healthy Youth and Communities www.tricitypartners.org

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