Laurie David – The Family Dinner Book

{Holly Hurd and Laurie David}

“My car has replaced the hearth as the center of my family life.”

Many know her famous side as an environmental activist and producer of the Oscar winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth, but Laurie David is also a mom with two teen-aged girls.  Given all the choices that we as mothers have to make over the course of a child’s life, Laurie feels one thing she’s done right is the institution of regular family dinners.  Sitting with her girls one night and talking about everything from politics in the world to politics at school, Laurie had an epiphany.  She knew her practice of family dinners had paid off.

She wanted to share that success with others so she began doing some research.  Finding that “today’s overscheduled kids and adults typically inhale fast food in the car, in front of the TV, in their bedroom, beside a computer, or standing alone in the kitchen” Laurie wanted to outline a way for families to gather around the table. She says, “Technology has certainly opened up so many opportunities for communication and knowledge, but at the same time, our dependence and addiction to our ‘screens’ is really starting to overwhelm me.  We’ve become so much more ‘connected’ but at the same time, we’ve become increasingly ‘disconnected’ to our families.  And with teenagers in my house, that’s even more the case!”  She decided to put together a book that offered ideas and suggestions for making family dinners meaningful and sharing her tips and ideas gathered over the course of her girls’ lives. “Dinnertime is too important to let it slip through our fingers that easily.”

She found that study after study cites that children who have regular dinners with their parents do better in almost all areas of their lives, from better grades, to better relationships, to staying healthy and out of trouble.  “Family meals have more to do with adolescents’ self-esteem, confidence, and other positive outcomes than do income levels, after-school activities, family structure (one parent or two), or regular attendance at church.”  Add to that the current technology – computers, blackberries, ipods – that the average kids spends almost seven and a half hours a day staring at, and the family dinner seems to be a necessity.  Most families are rushed every day, but we all have to eat – why not make it family time. “The importance of dinnertime should not be underestimated, and when done well, it will rock your world.”

Laurie believes rituals help a family stay connected, “There is something so powerful about the accountability of coming to the table most nights that works.  Family dinner acts as a motivator, a deterrent, and a safety net.”  But rather than deliver a message that adds pressure to a mom’s life or guilt to her day, Laurie set out to provide a guideline for making it easy, inexpensive, and fun.

Laurie starts by offering ten rules that have been successful for her dinners, suggesting that if you are new to family dinners start with one of two and build up to all ten.  These include, setting a specific time for dinner, no electronics allowed, the same meal for everyone, kids must ask to be excused, and everyone helps clean up.  Quick preparation is always key for a busy mom, so Laurie gives the reader a list of things to have on hand when it’s 5:49pm and you don’t have a clue what you’re having for dinner.

Regarding table talk, Laurie says, “Don’t assume I had it any easier because I had a professional comedian at my table.”  The goal is pleasant, lively banter with everyone participating, but this can be difficult to achieve.  Something beyond, “how was your day at school?” with the standard response, “Fine” must be covered.  So Laurie gives creative conversation starters that require more than one word answers.  Laurie says, “I love being able to share all of the tips, recipes, games and conversation starters that I’ve used over the last 10 years.”

With extremely supportive family and friends, Laurie was so inspired to write this book that it took only about 18 months.  Word of mouth helped her find an agent and then a publisher.  Taking her message to the public, the passion Laurie has for this message is evident.  She has found fulfillment in many areas of her life but feels spreading the word on family dinners is different – “Dinner spreads love.”  This is a message that has worked for her family and can work to build family unity and kids’ self esteem everywhere, “one meal at a time.2


VentureMom Tip

Look at something that has been successful in your family and see if there is a way to create a venture by sharing that success with other families.

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