The Family Dinner book cover
Photo: Courtesy of Grand Central Publishing
When marriages break up, kids need the comfort of routine more than ever. Rituals come to the rescue doing what they do best, providing a sense of predictability and normalcy, stability and security, comfort and love. I speak from personal experience. All the rituals I had spent years establishing helped me and my kids enormously, and Larry, too [after our divorce]. Continuing them sent the message loud and clear that although our family was changing, life would go on, routines would continue, dinner would be served.

If family dinner had stopped, the lesson to my kids (and to myself) would be that we weren't whole anymore, that something was broken forever. I honestly didn't believe that to be true. The message I did believe, and the one our continuing dinners provided was—This family is changing, we are in a transition, but we are still a family! Not only that, but we are a family that is going to get through this and come out strong and connected.

Family dinner helped all of us weather the rough days by forcing my kids and I to deal with one another, by reminding all of us every day that we were still a family. Thank goodness for that toolbox of table games. When things got uncomfortable and no one was talking, I would toss out a spelling challenge or play the Pet Peeve game.

Then I took this concept one step farther. I had the notion (hope) that eventually I could even get my ex back to the table, with me sitting at it, for a once-a-month, dare say once-every-other-week, family dinner. Crazy, you say? Maybe it was, but I was eager to try. I wanted a different divorce model for my kids. They had lots of friends who were from broken homes (okay, that is a crazy expression we have to stop using. Could we make people feel even worse than they already do?) and whose parents were in constant battle. I didn't want to put my girls through that. They were innocent bystanders and deserved better.