The B4FD Project features blog posts from guest writers that explore the far-reaching benefits of family dinner.

Family Dinner Month 2012: Sept 17 -- Oct 29, 2012


Date Your Family at Dinner

by Jane DeLaney

I have found that generally most parents fall into one of two categories when it comes to their approach to dinnertime.

One category….. you grew up eating dinner together somewhat regularly with your family and you have a conviction to carry it forward with your own family.

The second category…..you did not grow up eating dinner regularly with your family and you struggle to have a vision for its importance

Regardless, both fall into this category:

It is a HUGE challenge to pull it off!

Even for those who grew up around the dinner table, things were different 20-plus years ago. For one, there were far more stay-at-home moms. Add to that a much simpler lifestyle, fewer activities, fewer fast-food choices, and dinner was much more feasible. It just was. And I will argue that point in front of a judge if I have to.

Lack of energy, lack of time, lack of planning, or lack of vision. Regardless of the reason, the odds are against parents to sustain the will and conviction to plan and make dinner happen – regularly. I know I do.

Thus, we all fall into this category as well:

We all need encouragement to make dinner time a priority!

Even on the not-so-best-of-nights, when the conversation is flat, or everyone is mute, grumpy, rushed and stressed. Even when all you have to serve is leftovers and the kids are complaining, it’s worth it. Even when one of the kids gets in trouble and is sent to their room (door slam) while the rest of the family finishes eating, it’s worth it.

If I waited for the perfect night or for all the stars to line up just right, dinner would never happen. If I waited for that effervescent feeling to rush over me every night at 5 o’clock to waltz into the kitchen to start cooking, uh, we would starve.

Sometimes in my household we (or I) fall off the wagon and I have to get us back on track and reinstate the family table. I get tired, tired of cooking, cleaning, being on my feet, and I just want to pass out crackers. I have to remind myself that, yes, we need to eat food, but more importantly, it is valuable time for my family that we won’t get otherwise. Having that predictable gathering, eye-to-eye connecting place over a meal is nurturing to my kids individually, but also strengthens my family as a whole. It IS worth the sacrifice I make, the energy I spend, and the determination I muster to make dinner happen anyway.

You may be a parent that needs the incentive to inaugurate dinner as a new and regular occurrence for the first time. Do it! Take the advice from those who did grow up with family dinner – it makes a huge difference. I know it did for me. Shift your view of dinner as an investment in your family instead of a painful inconvenience, or a June Cleaver outdated idea. And don’t make it so hard! Meal planning can give you the easy jumpstart you need.

No matter what the situation, every time you make family time happen around the dinner table it will be a bite-size deposit that will go into the reservoir of love and connection needed by each of your children. I assure you, with many other resounding voices from our E-mealz community, it will be one of the best tools and worthwhile habits you’ll ever enforce.

Don’t let the days turn to years. Do it now. Keep doing it. Don’t lose heart.

Rally your family, regularly, for dinner – at home. You don’t need candles or cloth napkins. Just you, your table, and a simple meal. It’s a date and a family waiting to happen.

For a free dinner menu complete with recipes and grocery list, go to www.e-mealz.com. Join us and celebrate Family Day by sharing a meal with your family on September 26th, a nationally declared day by our President to “…call on the people of the United States to observe this day by reflecting on the blessings of family and participating in family activities that strengthen relationships between children and parents”.

For further Family Week activities, visit www.e-mealz.com for free downloads and family time ideas for you to enjoy.

Jane DeLaney is the Founder and CEO of E-Mealz, Inc. E-Mealz provides a simple on-line meal planning system based around Jane’s own frugal organization structure and delicious recipes the whole family can enjoy. Visit www.e-mealz.com for more information.


4 comments to Date Your Family at Dinner

  • I love Emealz and have been using their service for over 2 years, the BEST investment in my family! Makes dinner easy, affordable and gives me the time to create a space where my family can truly relax and enjoy hanging around with each other! Family Dinner is important – make it a priority! I am so glad I do, it makes a huge difference in our family.

  • Does it have to be hard? We’ve cut down to one extra curricular per child (one sport, one instrument lesson, etc) and there’s actually kinda plenty of time, most nights. If you can do that and have a parent home by 5 it makes a huge difference in everyone’s happiness.

    When my kids were littler (0-5) it was nearly impossible, because they were impossible about food. We put family dinner aside for a while because it seemed like a punishment more than a benefit. But now that they are older it’s actually kind of fun.

    • Thank you for your comments! It’s true that dinner time can be harder with little ones for many reasons, but if you tough it out and continue to make it a priority, it makes a HUGE difference as kids get older. I find that by kindergarten or so, dinnertime rituals become easier. Or as you say, if you’ve put family dinner aside for a while, come back to it!