Children: Three daughters, ages 8-14
Number of years you’ve been doing family meal consulting: Dinner Together was founded in 2008. Prior to that I worked with many parents of toddlers and preschoolers dealing with picky eaters through my work with early intervention and preschool special education programs. In addition to my work with Dinner Together, I continue to work with parents of young children empowering them to raise confident, compassionate children.
5 QUESTIONS WITH DR. KATHLEEN CUNEO OF DINNER TOGETHER:
1. What inspired you to start Dinner Together?
I started Dinner Together because as a psychologist, I knew the research that shows how important family meals are to the health and well being of children and adolescents. As a mom myself, I also knew how challenging pulling meals together can be. I realized that I could help other families meet some of their family meal challenges by sharing strategies that have worked for me.
2. What is your favorite part about family mealtime?
My favorite family meals are meals when we have the time to sit, relax, and talk for a while. Unfortunately, some of my family’s meals can be a bit rushed. But when we do have the time to connect with each other, the experience is satisfying for all of us, usually regardless of what the food is!
3. What do you find is the biggest roadblock for families that are having a hard time making family meals happen? Picky eaters? Cooking skills? Time?
I think the obstacles to family meals vary from family to family, but some of the most common obstacles are scheduling issues, either due to parents’ work or kids’ extracurricular activities. Some parents also feel overwhelmed in the kitchen and lack confidence in their cooking skills. Additionally, sometimes the children’s behavior and/or picky eating can leave parents frustrated and ready to give up on family meals.
4. What advice do you have for families who are having trouble enjoying mealtime?
First, I can’t stress enough how important it is to make the effort to have family meals. Also, many obstacles can be overcome. Skills and strategies can be learned to feel more confident in the kitchen. Getting in the habit of planning meals and using efficient cooking methods can help. Parents struggling with their children’s eating behaviors can learn more effective feeding strategies to stop mealtime battles.
5. Do you have a favorite dish you like to cook?
I like to cook lots of different things. I like to try new things frequently, but many of my family’s favorite meals are Italian. I really enjoy cooking especially when I have an uninterrupted chunk of time and can experiment a little. It can be a very peaceful, centering activity for me. I also love when my kids are in the kitchen cooking with me.