When you look back into your childhood, which do you remember most – tangible gifts (i.e., new shoes, a new television, a new baseball glove) or major events? My fondest memory as a child was enjoying our family meals together.

Yes, my mother was a very good southern cook (certainly a plus), but this was the time that we all shared together. We talked about what happened that day. This was when I learned how to have a conversation with adults, when I learned of my parent’s values, and of course, my manners.

I know what you’re probably saying, “Who has that kind of time these days?” I look back at my parent’s lives and they were busy, too. They both worked outside the home.

The family meal is not about the food, really. Think about how the market now caters to our hurried lives. Grocery stores have prepared foods. Some stores have a delivery service where you order your items from their web site. These items just need to be reheated. How convenient is that?

To get your family involved with the evening meal, have your children set the table. Put the prepared food on serving platters and call your family to the table. Sit down, and then talk and laugh about what is going on.

Watch how each person holds their fork, and assist them if they need help. Praise them when they do something correctly. Is their napkin in their lap? How is their posture? The meal does not need to be about correcting them all the time. During some meals, you may just enjoy your time together, and allow yourself to observe and correct them at another time. It is so important just to have as many meals together as possible

Do your children like to cook? I bet they would love it. Plan your weekly menus together. This is another way to get them involved so they look forward to your family time. Set aside one night to supervise and cook with your children. Take them grocery shopping and try a new vegetable or fruit. Let them look for a new recipe on the Internet. Food Network is a great resource for recipes.

Incorporating family meal time into your daily or weekly schedule is also a great way to set family rituals. One Friday afternoon when I was teaching an etiquette class for ten to fourteen year olds, two students who were brothers were so excited that it was Friday night. I thought they may be going to a sports event or a party. They quickly told me it was pizza, popcorn and a movie night on Friday nights with their family. They explained that everyone sat around and they were allowed to eat in the family room. Their enthusiasm was great.

The family meal is a time when you can create lasting memories, and ones that your children can carry forward as they raise their families.

Lisa Richey is the president and founder of The American Academy of Etiquette, Inc. She is an international expert on manners. Lisa is described by many as one of the most motivational speakers on the subject matter. She is the author of “Manners To Go”, an activity kit for children to learn social skills. For more information please visit www.mannerstogo.com or www.americanetiquette.com.

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