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As children get more involved in activities, and parents are working hard to make ends meet, sitting down to a dinner together can prove elusive. If more mealtimes together is one of your goals, try this experiment with your own family.

Years ago the Oprah Winfrey Show conducted “Family Dinner Experiments.” Five families accepted the challenge to eat half-hour dinners together every night for a month and journal their thoughts. At first, sharing meals was a chore for many families and the minutes at the table dragged on. By the end of the month, the families were happier and planned to continue dining together. The greatest surprise to the parents was how much their children treasured the time with their parents at the table.

Focus groups and studies have shown that the primary benefit to eating together was strengthening the family by providing opportunities for communication and building relationships.

Establish a one-conversation rule so that only one story is going on at once. This will help ensure that everyone has a chance to share and be heard. Try this for a conversation starter: name three things we are grateful for today.

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