By Niesha Lofing
Hundreds of restaurants statewide are offering free meals for children in an effort to encourage families to eat dinner together tonight.
Today is Family Day, an annual movement launched by the National Center on Addiction Substance Abuse at Columbia University. The center's research has found that children who eat dinner with their families are less likely to smoke, drink or use drugs.
More than 750 restaurants, from chain restaurants like Chili's Grill and Bar to independent restaurants such as Thai Basil Cafe in midtown, are offering a free meal for children with the purchase of an adult entree from 4 to 8 p.m. today, according to a news release from the restaurant organization.
Click here for a list of participating restaurants.
California First Lady Maria Shriver, who has served as the state's honorary chair of Family since 2006, is leading this year's effort, titled "WE are Family! California's Family Day."
Click here to go to Shriver's WE are Family website.
Looking for more interesting conversation than the obligatory "What did you do at school today?" Here are a few conversation starters from the entertaining (and insightful) new book "Dinner Talk: 365 engaging conversation starters to help you and your family connect" (Adams Media, $12.95, 384 pages).
The book was written by Emily Hall, a medical student who has worked with kids with behavioral problems for years, and her parents Philip Hall, a psychologist, and Nancy Hall, an elementary school principal.
• Would you rather ride in a submarine, a hot air balloon or a glider? Encourage your child to talk about why they chose that mode of transportation. Who would they take with them? Do they like underwater adventures more than aerial ones? The answer will help give you an understanding of the child's awareness.
• If company were coming to visit and stay for several days, what one thing in our town would you like to show them? The question will enhance pride that children feel about the community. Ask them whether it's their favorite place in town. Do other towns have a similar place?
• How do you show your friends that you care about them? This question may even help adults at the table realize that they don't intentionally do enough to demonstrate their regard for others. Keep the conversation going by making sure your child knows how proud you of her caring about her friends. Ask her how others show they care toward her and how it makes her feel.