Dinner with the family – it’s a priceless time of bonding and interaction. I believe so strongly in the family table and want to share some thoughts on why it is important and how to make it work for a busy family. I made a video post on the topic recently that I invite you to watch. Feel free to like the Facebook Page also to stay connected. In short, please make the effort to sit your butt down and eat. Your family will be better for it, especially your children.
Whether you are eating a gourmet meal, pizza or leftovers, taking the time connect is worth it. There’s research confirming this. In Les and Leslie Parrott’s Book The Hour that Matters Most: The Surprising Power of the Family Meal, it reads:
“It’s not about the food on the table; it’s not even about the conversations around it. Rather, there’s an unidentifiable bond that grows stronger when family members eat together. Why? Because this time-tested ritual helps families cultivate the six qualities that make a home the safest place on earth…”
According to an extensive 25-year study by Dr. Stinnett of the University of Alabama, cited by the Parrotts, these six qualities are:
- Appreciation and Affection
- Positive Communication
- Time Together
- Spiritual Well-Being
- The Ability to Cope with Stress and Crises
Whoa – that’s a boatload of benefits for minimal effort. Surely these benefits justify making a mealtime an obvious priority that all families should be working towards. Parrott goes on to detail the specifics on each of the above qualities and it is quite fascinating. I really encourage you to try to get your hands on a copy of the Parrotts’ book (link below). In addition to research and anecdotal information about mealtime benefits, they discuss “fix and freeze” dinner prep, to make regular family dinnertime easier to do. I plan to talk about in a later post as well.
To follow up on the Parrotts, I have added a few of my own ideas and observations below. Enjoy!
TECHNOLOGY KILLS CONVERSATION
We aren’t perfect, but almost all of the time, we avoid cell phone use at the table. It is an unneeded distraction that will cause you to look down instead of into the faces of your loved ones. Television is never an issue because we eat in the dining room, away from the TV. It also has to be turned off because that blaring racket just doesn’t do anything to make the meal better. An exception to the rule of technology is that we put on our kitchen radio most nights so we have a little mood music while we eat. We usually listen to the classical/jazz station or K-LOVE Radio, which adds a nice touch to the atmosphere at dinner time.
CHAT IT UP
Talking to your family is the best part of eating together. You can tailor conversations to age and even season. Try to avoid the “how was your day” question. It is possible to answer this in a single word and many kids will. We like to ask our kids to tell us one thing that was interesting, funny or new at school. We talk about upcoming plans and holidays. It is our plan to begin regular family devotions as well – just a quick little bible verse and discussion to keep the focus on God and His goodness. If you learn how to ask the right questions, your kids will talk to you – even your teenagers.
KEEP IT SIMPLE
A sure way to thwart your efforts to have family meals throughout the week is to have no plan. This isn’t to say you need an immaculately organized meal calendar, but you should have a few easy recipes you can make in a pinch. We love One Pan Pasta from Martha Stewart. This meal can tossed be into one pan and served on one plate each, reducing your cleanup time by a lot. Who doesn’t love fewer dishes?
Another family favorite is a simple Chicken Taco meal that we like having on Tuesdays because, Taco Tuesday folks. Taco Tuesday is not only a thing, it is a delicious thing! This recipe feeds 4 adults or 2 adults and 2 children with leftovers for lunch. BONUS!
Crockpot Chicken Tacos
2 lbs. frozen boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts (or both)
1 – 14-16 oz. jar of your favorite salsa (we use mild and add our own hot fixings at the table)
1/4 cup water
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika (adds nice depth)
1/2 tsp. salt
pepper to taste
1 cup black beans (optional)
1/2 cup corn (optional)
Simply add ingredients (except corn/beans) to the crockpot and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours. Cook time will depend upon your pot and the meat will easily shred with forks when done. Toss beans and/or corn in after shredding meat and allow to warm through in the pot.
Serve in warm flour or corn tortillas, with your choice of toppings. We like any combination of shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, shredded cheese, avocado, sour cream and sprinkles of chipotle chili powder/Tabasco sauce. Often it’s whatever is handy.
NOTE: Frozen chicken allows slow cook time if you are out all day without drying out the meat. Fresh can be used, but you will want to cut the cook time down by just less than half.
Other quick family meals you can prepare with minimal effort at home include:
- Breakfast for Dinner (eggs, pancakes, toast, breakfast meat, fruit, etc.)
- Homemade pizza night and salad (store-bought dough topped with sauce, cheese, veggies, you name it)
- Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and Soup (We make tomato soup in the summer and freeze it.)
- Leftovers! Have a smorgasboard at some point in the week to help tidy up the fridge and enjoy what you already spent time cooking.
The family table is one of the most important things you can do for your family because it has multi-faceted benefits. Declare war on crazy schedules and start simply by setting a couple of days a week if you are totally swamped. If you eat together regularly, but are distracted by TV or texting, make your table a technology-free zone. There’s nothing you can watch, play or text that is worth sacrificing family conversation and bonding.
I am also sharing some affiliate links that may help you learn more about the family table and prepare meals easily. I hope you find nourishment for you body, heart and soul at your family table!