Family meals are key to creating close relationships with your children. It is a time for sharing and showing by example the importance of civility.

Statistics show that children in families who regularly eat together are less likely to have health and weight issues. Additionally, grades go up, and addictive and troublesome behaviors like alcohol and drug use go down. Children tend to be more emotionally balanced.

We all have busy schedules, but it is not impossible to spend quality meal time together. Here are some tips to help you:

• Make it a priority. You make time for the things that are important. Put family meal dates on the calendar and stick to them. Even if it is two or three times a week – some time is better than no time.

• It doesn’t have to be dinner. Be flexible with your family’s schedule. Saturday morning pancakes can be just as meaningful as Tuesday night lasagna.

• Plan ahead. Know what the menu is and make sure ingredients are on-hand. Remember, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

• Keep it easy. Your meals do not need to be elaborate. The point here is to bring your family together. Cook a one-pot dish in your crock pot so you’re not standing over the stove all day. Make it a “salad night” or order in if plans go awry.

• Include everyone in the conversation. Even more important that talking to your children is listening to them. Our primary need in life is to be heard and acknowledged. Listen to your children’s ideas and opinions. Even if you do not agree with them, acknowledge that they have value.

• Exclude the heavy topics. Try and keep your dinner conversation light and enjoyable. Life happens, and sometimes coming together as a family means dealing with troubling events. Hopefully, these are rare for your family.

• Tell stories. Children love to hear stories about their parents and older family members. Introduce them to their family history through stories and you will have their undivided attention.

Spending quality time with family members during meals will give everyone at your table many happy memories.

Have you incorporated family meal time into your busy schedule? Tell us how you did it!