Tag Archives: family dinner

Sunday Morning Shout Out

dinnerWe all know dinner together as a family is important.  But did you know it is the best predictor of how adolescence will go for our children?  In my favorite go- to place for professional advice about “Happy Familiying,” Dr. Laura Markham, Ph.D., at the “Aha Parenting” website, discusses why dinner and eating together are the glue that keep families strong.

Dinner is a protective factor for all family members and an extremely powerful one for adolescents, especially.  The more frequently teens eat with their families, the more likely they are: to do well in school, not do drugs, and become sexually active in high school, depressed, or suicidal.  They are many factors at play.  Families that regularly eat together, offer structure and routine to their children.  They offer oversight and supervision to teens and all children, in a world that can be utterly fast and risky for all.  Dinnertime offers children a sense of identity as a family, tradition, and stability.  In a world where a lot is changeable and stressful, regular dinner offers a family a constant.  Dinnertime is a place to check in with one another about each other’s day—the good, bad, and ugly.  It is a place to ask more questions about what occurred at school; what your children’s feelings and thoughts are about family events; and it is a place to weigh in, for all parties.  Most importantly, it is a place to belong, connect, and build better relationships.

As ideal as this sounds, life is not always conducive to sitting down together.  Many different schedules can exist in the same house.  If this is not happening at all, Markham says to aim for a few days a week.  The more times you can do this, the greater the effect! Perhaps it is a single parent home. Maybe, one spouse works later than another.  There is still great power in sitting down together regularly, as a family with a single parent or as a family where one parent is the regular one at dinner.  Markham suggests if one parent gets home later than the other, everyone could sit down and have a snack together.  Or, there could be special emphasis placed on weekend dinners together.  Weekends could then be kept sacred for dinner.  She also states that families may want to adjust dinner time to eat earlier or later, if it means everyone can eat together.

There are other practical things to keep in mind, according to Markham.  Do not get hung up on making an elaborate dinner, at the expense of energy, patience, and time! It is better to put all these ingredients into the actual activity of connecting with one another.  She also talks about creating a welcoming dinner atmosphere, and biting your tongue as a parent if needed.  The idea is build up one another and connect as a family, rather than tearing each down over a difference of opinion or behavioral critique.  She lists some creative resources for promoting dinner conversation, so it goes beyond, “How was your day?”  One classic approach is having everyone give their high and low points of the day-or their roses and thorns.  The point is to connect, converse, and feed more than just the appetite.  When we do this with our families, we do so much more than eat….


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Eight Brain Foods To Make Your Kids Smarter

Brain-shinyWhile your brain may only take up 2% of your body mass, it utilizes up to 20% of your energy. Brains need a complex mixture of proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals to function and grow. If you feed your kid’s brains the right food, they will perform better academically and enjoy improved memory functions.

The most immediate need for all brains is a constant supply of glucose which can be found in whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Ensure a good supply with regular meals crammed with healthy nutrients and augmented with water for hydration. When you don’t eat regularly or when you go for foods that aren’t healthy, you will experience a lack of concentration and memory loss. This explains why your teen’s exam diet of fast food and gummi bears won’t help to improve their grades.

Brains also like iron which you can find in whole grains (like oatmeal), red meat (especially liver) and vegetables like spinach, raw asparagus, snow peas, kale and beets. See a full list of foods rich in iron here.

Eating regularly is also important if you want to keep your brain functioning optimally. Try to avoid drops in your blood sugar with regular meals and snacks on fruit, nuts and granola bars between meals.

The Top Five Foods To Feed Your Brain:
Green leafy veggies: like spinach, kale and cabbage are packed with vitamins B6, B12, Iron and folate.

Pumpkin seeds: just a handful a day is all you need to get your recommended daily amount of zinc, which helps develop your cognitive and memory skills.

Wild salmon: packed with essential fatty acids (Omega-3), these oily fish are a good source of protein.

Whole grains: bran, whole wheat, oatmeal, brown rice and wheat germ all contain lots of vitamin B6 and folate which increases the flow of blood to the brain.

Seeds and nuts: provide Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids which help to improve your mood while their thiamine and magnesium ramp up your memory.

Akai berries and blueberries: These amazing berries are packed with anti-oxidants, vitamins and protein. Akai berries even have omega-3 fatty acids.

Broccoli: a wonderful source of vitamin K, which improves cognitive function and brainpower.

Tomatoes: these happy fruits contain lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that fights free radical damage to cells which contributes to the development of dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s. Tomato juice is also a good source of iron.

Best Drinks For Your Brain
Juices, especially those high in anti-oxidants and vitamins like cranberry juice or aloe juice. Green tea, especially macha which packs a great anti-oxidant punch and many vitamins and minerals to boot.

Always drink 6-8 glasses of water a day. Staying hydrated is important for proper brain function.

Note: Adapted from a post originally published 5/22/2014 on the Tutor Doctor Corp. blog

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Understanding Learning Styles

Family meals should be enjoyable and respectful, not stressful! (Image Credit: Google Images)

Family meals should be enjoyable and respectful, not stressful! (Image Credit: Google Images)

If you wish to instill family cohesion, encourage siblings to get along or get your kids to talk to you more, one excellent way to do this is through family dinners. Of course it’s not always easy to coordinate busy schedules, work and after-school activities, but just two or three nights a week is all you need to change the dynamics of your family.

Why It’s A Good Idea
Studies support the theory that families who eat together enjoy a happier life and better relationships. Students who ate family meals had higher academic scores and fewer behavioral problems. 19% of teens whose families did not share meals reported feeling alienated from their families compared to the 7% of teens who did enjoy family meals.

Students who ate more meals at home suffered less from obesity and the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at the University of Columbia discovered that students who eat with their families are less likely to drink, smoke or use drugs.

Best Practices For Family Meals
Meals at home with the family can be beneficial, but you must follow some best practices in order to achieve success. Start with a ban on electronics at the table. This means the dinner hour is a tech-free one (that goes for parents too!)

Schedule your dinners and give them as much status and importance as studies, afterschool activities and work engagements. Aim for three meals a week and these can include weekend breakfasts and lunches. Every family can set aside three hours a week to share together no matter how busy you are.

Make it fun! Be inclusive so that your kids look forward to these experiences by allowing them to choose what they want to eat for family dinners and allowing them to help with cooking, music selection and table settings.

Family meals should be a fun, positive experience, so don’t use this time to criticise, fight, argue or talk about issues. If you have an issue to discuss, wait until after your meal. Mealtimes should be positive family experiences or you will create a very negative atmosphere that makes meals unbearable.

Add to the positive experience by having themed dinners, including desserts, telling jokes and sharing all your funny stories from the day at work or school.

It can be really tough to find the time to enjoy a meal together when family members have such busy schedules. However, taking just a couple of hours out of your week can really help to foster positive relationships between family members and keep communication channels open. Make meals a fun and positive event that your family looks forward to sharing. Family meals can be really great places to make memories and share stories of your life.

Note: Adapted from a post originally published 4/14/2014 on the Tutor Doctor Corp. blog

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Mother’s Day On A Student Budget

Mothers DayMother’s Day is on Sunday, May 11th and, as a student, you probably don’t have much free cash to show your mother a little appreciation on her special day.  The good news is that Mother’s Day isn’t really about spending money so much as it is about showing your mother that you really appreciate all the things she does for you.  When it comes to Mother’s Day, it’s the sincerity and the thought that counts.  It is also about family and connectedness so don’t forget to engage your Mom’s significant other and any siblings you may have.  Here are some really great ways to show your mother a little love on her special day.

Keeping It Clean
While doing chores that you are already responsible for doesn’t count, you can do work your Mother would normally do to make her life easier. Do the laundry, wash her car, clean the house or do all the cooking for a week. Giving her a break will not only make her day, it will also give you an idea of just how much work she puts in to her family and her home.

Spring Picnic
With exams and end of term stress, most of you have not yet been able to enjoy the warmer Spring weather.  Plan a picnic with your family so that you can all spend some time together.  Take your Mother to the park or to another great natural setting.  Make a lunch or dinner for the family to share including all her favorite foods.  Pack some outdoor activities such as soccer or baseball for added family fun.

Family Entertainment
If you mother likes going to the movies or the theater, take her out to see a show on Mother’s Day or stay at home and watch her favorite movie with her (even if it’s not your favorite movie!).  You can make some popcorn and prepare all her favorite snacks too.

Dinner El Fresco
If you are planning to cook your mother a special meal for Mother’s Day, then take it outside! Dinner on the roof, in the garden or in the park is a great way to make a family meal even more fun.  Play charades after dinner or bring a board game that you all enjoy.

Putting in the time and effort to do something special for your mother is what will make Mother’s Day special for her.  Making a cake, creating a card, writing a poem or cooking a special meal is a fool-proof way of showing appreciation on her special day.  Your mom does so much for you and she really deserves a little bit of creativity and imagination this Mother’s Day.  For me this will be the first Mother’s Day since my Mom passed away so it will be challenging but I’ll remember all the great times we had together.

P.S.  Mom’s…it is OK to give us hints on what you’d like to do on your day.  When we’re small we also appreciate you helping us make it a special day!

Note: Adapted from a post originally published 4/25/2014 on the Tutor Doctor Corp. blog

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Make More Quality Family Time This Summer

Sure the snow is still falling here in Western New York but it is still not too early to think about summer and family activities.  If you also read the title of this post with a strong sense of doubt, you are not alone. Just getting kids to school, extracurricular activities and social engagements, getting homework done and getting them to eat something healthy while you clean the house, do the laundry and deal with your own career may be so time consuming that you just don’t see where you can possibly find the time for more family time.

Statistics show that spending even a small amount of family time together can make a huge difference to your student’s happiness, their level of social adjustment and even their academic performance.  From Tutor Doctor’s blog on the importance of family meals:

19% of teens who do not share at least three family meals together a week report stressed relationships between family members compared to 7% who do enjoy family meals.
More meals at home result in higher performance scores and fewer behavioral problems.
Students who enjoy family meals are more informed about good eating habits and are less likely to suffer from obesity.
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at the University of Columbia found that students who eat meals with their families are less likely to drink, smoke or use drugs.  Read the full article here.

If spending only an hour together three times a week can make such a huge difference to your student’s life and to the coherence of the family unit, then its worth the effort.

Set Goals
Every month, set a new goal for your family to spend time together. You can start small like a five minute chat to see what everyone has been up to before bed or dinner three times a week. These goals can be added to as you make family time a priority. You can expand your repertoire to include things like a family movie night, a game night or a weekend away.

Family time should mean that each member of the family gets to talk or participate equally and that their input is important. This will help you to keep in touch with your students while they learn to get along well together. Making family time a priority will help everyone to make time for it and it also sends the message that the family is more important than anything else.

Routine Inspection
The best way to make a little extra time is to make a routine that works for you. This means that you set in place routines and chores so that everyone knows what they are doing and when they are doing it. Sharing responsibilities will help you to save time. Routines also establish family time timeslots and these are sacred and should be respected by everyone.

Setting out a little time to spend together will have you all getting along better and helping each other out more.  As your family enjoys spending time together, they will find it easier to make the time available to hang out with you.

P.S. Remember that there tends to be a significant drop in a child’s Math and Language skills over the summer if there is no dedicated effort to maintain and grow what they learned over the school year.

Note: Adapted from a post originally published 3/22/2013 on the Tutor Doctor Corp. blog

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Sunday Morning Shout Out

Perhaps lately your home cooked dinner has come out of a box a lot. Perhaps this box has made you too acquainted with “Captain Crunch” or other “lucky” cereal.  Perhaps another bowl of cereal for dinner is quickly beginning to feel like the nuclear option. Before you get ready to enroll yourself in the parenting hall of shame (but please, a little cereal for breakfast every now and then won’t hurt anyone), please consider a few of these options.  They offer great, quick, and healthy dinner options, for you and your time strapped family.

Have some exciting menu options for your family.  Food Network Celebrities from the likes of Melissa D’arabian and Sunny Anderson to Rachael Ray and Aaron Sanchez, offer great, fast, and healthy dinner options for your food savvy kids.  From slow cooker tortilla soup to oven fried chicken, there are 13 options listed to suit everyone’s palate.  One of my personal favorite websites is allrecipes.com.  This site is a clearinghouse for recipes of every kind, including the healthy and quick family kind.  One of my favorite things to do when thinking about what is for dinner is go to this site and search for quick and easy versions of well liked foods; use them; and then bookmark them.

Have a plan.  A meal won’t feel like a swift, strong pinch or gut punch if it was planned.  Perhaps on the weekend (or maybe when you’re waiting at a practice or game) sketch out the week ahead in terms of meals for your family.  Family favorites can be intermixed with recipes that spark your interest or better yet the discriminating tastes of your eaters.  Family meal planning can become a fruitful time to discuss healthy choices, budgets, and preferences.  Part of your plan should be to maximize shortcuts where you can.  Think of the many forms a roast can take. Sundays chicken roast can become Monday’s chicken potpie or Wednesday’s soup. It might make sense to name a certain day of the week pasta night or fish night.  That can eliminate some of the meal question every week. Don’t forget a leftover night!  Not only will it ease planning, it will reduce or eliminate food waste. 

Small efforts can make big results when it comes to saving time.  Consider chopping all vegetables at once for the week. If you need onions or garlic for a recipe, bag up what you don’t need for later in the week.  Along these same lines, cook large! If you double or triple what you are making, you will have plenty to freeze and save for another day.  How nice to pull something out of the freezer in the morning!  Consider your crockpot or slow cooker!  How nice to start something in the slow cooker or crock-pot in the morning and come home to it in the evening!

Every busy parent I know has a few tricks up their sleeves when it comes to nights that run away from them.  From cereal nights to grilled cheese nights to breakfast for dinner nights and takeout nights, sometimes every trick has to be pulled.  Yet as most parents do not want to feel like tricksters, some simple planning and forethought can produce great, delicious, healthy, and popular dinners for all….

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Family Dinners

Experts agree that the family dinner is pivotal in the creation of a cohesive family unit. Eating a meal together is a great way to solidify relationships and share the events of the day. Of course it’s really difficult to find the time to sit down together as a family when you all have very busy schedules, but the rewards are well worth the effort.

Benefits of family meals

  • 19% of teens who do not share at least three family meals together a week report stressed relationships between family members compared to 7% who do enjoy family meals.
  • More meals at home results in higher performance scores and fewer behavioral problems.
  • Students who enjoy family meals are more informed about good eating habits and are less likely to suffer from obesity.
  • The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at the University of Columbia found that students who eat meals with their families are less likely to drink, smoke or use drugs.
  • Eating at home reduces costs. Ordering take out is not only bad for your health; it’s also bad for your bank balance. Eating in helps save money and teaches your students about eating healthy foods.
  • Eating meals with family is good for you too! It relieves stress and helps to keep the channels of communication open.


Rules of engagement

  • Getting the family together can be very difficult. With parents working late and with student’s after-school activities, sharing a meal together during the week can be tough. Aim for at least three meals together every week. Make family meals as important as soccer practice or studying.
  • Discuss the benefits of family meals with your students so that they understand why it’s important.
  • Allow students to participate in order to make it more fun. They can take turns choosing what they want for dinner or help with the cooking.
  • Cellphones, tablets and TV have no place at the dinner table; the idea is to interact with each other and these are distractions.
  • Avoid criticism or fighting at the dinner table. Meals should be enjoyed in a positive atmosphere. If you hear something you disagree with at dinner, try to reserve comment until the meal is done and you can address the issue in private. Students won’t want to participate in meals if they are a negative experience.
  • You can make family meals fun by having dessert on nights when you eat together.
  • You can create a fun atmosphere by making it a candlelight dinner, having breakfast for dinner or transforming your kitchen into a restaurant where your students are the restaurant staff.
  • The family meal is all too often put on the backburner as busy lives and schedules take precedence. However, the benefits of sharing a meal with your family a couple of days a week make it an essential part of family life.

Note: This post was originally posted on the Tutor Doctor Corp. blog on Oct 22nd. and was titled “The Importance of Family Dinner

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