In today’s world, making time for family dinner is increasingly difficult. With work, after-school sports, music lessons, etc. it can be really hard to sit down and eat a meal together as a family. And often when we do sit down to eat we are distracted by television, phone calls, social media, etc. I think it is time to take back family dinner and make it more meaningful.
This past week my family had an amazing time at the Family Forward conference at Universal Studios in Orlando. We had the opportunity to make and share a family meal together and learn about ways that we can make family meals more meaningful. We heard from Barilla’s guest chef, Daniele Baliani, as he helped us prepare a delicious lunch of Barilla Penne Salad with Roasted Peppers, Sun Dried Tomatoes, Arugula, Fresh Mozzarella and Basil. It was delicious! (recipe below) Prior to this lunch, Barilla had asked me to take part in their Barilla Blog Tour and share our experience of what our family learned about the Share The Table initiative with my readers.
Share The Table really speaks to my heart. My greatest memories of growing up include sitting around our small kitchen table and just being together as a family. Even as I got older and friends would come in and out of our house, the kitchen table was always a place to relax and pass around snacks.
Family dinner was always a big deal on Sundays. My mom is a wonderful cook and Sunday has always been our family day to take a break from outside activities and be together. When dinner was finished, we would sit around the table for quite a while and just enjoy each other’s company. My grandparents would often join us and I have so many fun memories of being with my grandparents and listening to Grandpa tell stories.
But today it seems like family dinner is becoming a thing of the past. We live in a fast-paced world where we have so much access to the outside while in our homes that it is hard to turn it off and take a break. It can be easy to become consumed with technology, work and activities, and unintentionally, family can get knocked down on our list of priorities. One in four families say that they feel like disconnected individuals living under one roof. That’s sad!
Having meaningful meals together can bring positive changes to a family. Studies have shown that children benefit by getting better grades, learning healthier eating habits, increasing their confidence, and becoming overall more happy, independent and hardworking. Adults have more happiness and are less likely to have feelings of stress when family dinner time is made a priority. I think we can all use less stress!
During our Barilla lunch we talked about ways as a family that we could make family dinner time more worthwhile.
Some of these ideas include:
- Choosing and preparing the meal together. If the kids are involved in the planning they will be more excited about eating the meal.
- Making sure there are no electronics at the table. We’ve even made an “electronics jail” to remind us to put our phones/video games away when we are having dinner.
- Talking more and not using Yes or No questions. All of my boys mentioned that they wanted to have more dialogue when at the table.
- Sitting down as a family and staying until everyone is finished. Staying in our seats and being good listeners to the things our family members have to say.
- Playing 3 glads and 1 sad where we ask our boys to share 3 good things that have happened to them that day and one that didn’t quite go as planned and how they were able to deal with it, or how we can help them through it.
- Laughing together and keeping conversations positive.
- Having a jar of “conversation starters” to keep the dialogue going
These are just a few of the ways that we can make family meals more meaningful. Since returning from our conference we have started putting these things into play. It has been somewhat difficult to keep my boys at the table since they are used to eating and then getting down, but the more we do it, the more natural it has become. And I realize that this type of meal isn’t possible every night of the week but we should really focus on making it a priority at least a couple of times a week when the family is all home together.
It takes the entire family working together to make the family dinner more meaningful and at first it is easy to slip back into bad habits. Our new commitment to Share The Table is helping us to make more out of our family meal time and with everyone helping out, I am excited to see family dinner as a time to bond instead of just a quick stop on the way to something more important.
What do you do to make family mealtime more meaningful?
And as promised here is the recipe for Barilla Penne Salad with Roasted Peppers, Sun Dried Tomatoes, Arugula, Fresh Mozzarella and Basil. This is a quick and easy meal that your family will have fun making together.