This month, Blog for Family Dinner founders will reflect back on some lessons learned from our B4FD guest bloggers over the past year.
We made a conscious effort at B4FD to include posts from a variety of perspectives on family dinner to convey the message that there is no single “correct” way to include family dinner in your life. Two of my favorite posts from the past year both touch on the theme that family meals do not have to be perfect to have a positive impact on family life.
Natalia Stasenko writes beautifully in her post, “My Family’s Non-Family Meals,” about her hardworking mother who provided nutritious meals for her children although the family did not eat together. Natalia writes,
One of the reasons for not eating together as a family was practical – our tiny table in the kitchen simply could not sit comfortably more than 3 people at the same time and we were 4. Another reason was that family meals were not seen as important, and, in fact, talking while eating was discouraged.
Yet Natalia was able to glean much informal education about how to cook for a family from her mom.
So what do I do in order to raise my kids as healthy eaters? Interestingly, the same principles my mother followed, willingly or not, seem to work beautifully in my Spanish/Russian/American family.
As a psychologist, Polly Dunn knows the value and importance of eating together as a family. But as a mom, she also knows the real life obstacles that make doing so difficult to do on a frequent basis. In her piece, “The Truth About Family Dinners,” she offers some concrete, practical advice about making the best of the times when your family can gather together for meals. Polly writes,
- Don’t worry so much about the food. I know that might seem like an unusual recommendation, but sometimes as parents we get so overwhelmed by coming up with the perfect meal that we end up giving up and serving the kids cereal while they watch television in the den! Of course you should aim to provide healthy and yummy meals as often as you can. But if menu planning is what’s keeping you from gathering your family around the dinner table, accept that you can share quality time as a family at dinner whether you’re eating hot dogs or filet mignon.
- Develop a few family dinner rituals. Sit at the table. Say the blessing. Use your manners. Take turns setting the table. Help clean up after dinner. Whatever routines you can establish during the family dinner hour will model for your children what’s expected of them around the table. Even if you only eat together twice a week, try to follow the same routine at each meal.
- Keep technology away from the table. As best you can, try to keep the dinner table a sacred spot free of the distractions technology offers. Turn off your television, cell phone, iPod, computer, and other gadgets or leave them in another room while you eat.
- Make conversation a priority. Some of the best family conversations happen around the dinner table. But sometimes it’s hard to get everyone talking, especially if this hasn’t been a part of your normal dinner routine. To get the conversation started at our dinner table we go around to each member of the family and say “Tell us about your day today.” We like to hear about the activities of the day, the best part, and the worst. Each family member (including mom and dad) takes center stage and the kids love it. Don’t get me wrong, we still have normal conversations, but this activity never fails to get each child involved and get us all talking.
- Repeat as often as you can. We may not all be able to sit around the dinner table six out of seven nights. No matter how hard we try, we may only get there two or three nights a week. Just try to have a family dinner as many nights a week as you can.
As a proud advocate of practical advice myself, I really appreciated Polly’s post.