11/18/2011 05:12 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2012

National Family Volunteer Day: A Family Dinner Table Talk

This week's Family Dinner Table Talk, from HuffPost and The Family Dinner book:

As we head into the giving season, we'll be doling out all kinds of reminders to think about giving back. It can be hard to remember when there is so much going on. But, if you're feeling overwhelmed at school, work, or home, the best way to get out of your own head is to focus on the here and now and think about other people. To that end, we were excited to discover that tomorrow is National Family Volunteer Day. A day started by the Points of Light Institute, whose mission is to get more people thinking about -- and fighting against -- social problems.

In a blog post yesterday, Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen, the author of "Giving 2.0," showed us how important it is for families to get involved together. Out of a group of people who grew up with parents who volunteered a lot, almost half said they had volunteered in the past year, too. In families where parents didn't volunteer, only 20 percent got involved. Family therapist Betsy Brown Braun also gave us excellent suggestions for ways to volunteer that you might not normally think of. Go read her post here.

So what can you do to start this weekend? Check in with your local Volunteer Center on the Institute's site, where their youth division, GenerationOn, is especially good for kids. Choose an area of interest are, like animal welfare, homelessness, literacy, or the environment, and then choose one of the category's suggested activities. From helping pets in animal shelters get adopted to reading to preschoolers in low-income neighborhoods, you'll get a complete set of guidelines for each idea that tell you what materials you'll need to participate, along with questions to discuss with your family along the way. Speaking of... the best way to get started with all of this is to start talking.

Questions for discussion:
  • Why volunteer?
  • What's an issue you care about that you could volunteer for?
  • When's the last time you went out of your way to help someone?
  • What are small ways that we could give back to others every day?

This Week's Recipe:
Each week, we give you something to talk about at dinner time, and now, something to eat too! Tonight's recipe comes to us from The Naptime Chef: Spicy Sausage Slow-Cooker Lasagna.


In her new cookbook, The Family Dinner, Laurie David talks about the importance of families making a ritual of sitting down to dinner together, and how family dinners offer a great opportunity for meaningful discussions about the day's news. "Dinner," she says, "is as much about digestible conversation as it is about delicious food."

We couldn't agree more. So HuffPost has joined with Laurie and every Friday afternoon, just in time for dinner, our editors highlight one of the most compelling news stories of the week -- stories that will spark a lively discussion among the whole family.

Click here to see last week's Family Dinner Download

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For more tips and recipes, check out The Family Dinner: Great Ways to Connect with Your Kids, One Meal at a Time by Laurie David and Kirstin Uhrenholdt (