NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Is the family dinner table a reality or a dream at your house? Most moms agree that it can be difficult to find time to plan and produce a meal night after night. Eating together, however, is worth any inconvenience and energy it may take to pull it off. How about a New Year’s resolution that gets the family around the table a few nights a week?
The Judeo-Christian culture is founded upon a variety of traditions and rituals that involve food. From the earliest recorded celebrations in the Bible, food has played an important part in feasting and gaiety. Today’s culture is no different in this respect. Food plays a huge role in our lives, from weddings to wakes. Yet we sometimes downplay the importance of food in the daily life of a family.
“We have to look at each day as being the cornerstone of a child’s life, not just the celebrations,” explains Leanne Ely, author of “Saving Dinner.” “The celebrations are planned, but it’s day to day life that impacts our kids.”
Day to day life, however, is full of activities. By the time evening rolls around, many families are divided by sports, music lessons or one parent working late.
“For me lately,” admits Kathy, a mother of two in Charlotte, N.C., “every step of the family table is difficult, from planning and shopping to cooking and cleaning up. We are slightly overextended.”
According to Ely, it is precisely because of our hectic lifestyles that we need the family table.
“There needs to be a place where we can sit down, take a breath and say, ‘Whew! How was your day?'”
For mothers of young children, dinnertime has its own obstacles. “It’s almost like a circus at my house,” confesses Shelly, a mother of two toddlers. “I can hardly get the kids to stay at the table, much less have a conversation.”
Ely suggests that you make the family table as fun as possible. “Try some fun conversation starters, like, ‘If you could be any kind of animal in the world, what would you be?'” she offers. “Start asking questions and piquing their interest, even the older ones. If you persist in making it something that the kids want to do, you’ll be successful.”
For mothers of middle schoolers, the primary obstacle might be a child’s “get it over with” mentality. After all, there are text messages that must be received and answered. Insist that your middlers plan on spending 20 to 30 minutes at the family table. Bar all cell phones from the room — and that means yours, too. Besides connecting with their parents, most middle schoolers haven’t seen their siblings all day. Dinnertime serves to reconnect all the pieces of your family.
Get your family together to ask them for some of their favorite meals. Put together 12 menu ideas (these will serve as a two-week rotation of dinner meals), and create a master grocery list. Once you make that initial investment of your time, take five minutes a week to check your calendar to determine which nights the family table would be the most do-able. Take an additional ten minutes to put together a shopping list from your master.
“When we take the family dinner table and look at it with different eyes, we understand that it’s going to have an impact on our children’s future. It represents security, a place where they can come and talk about their day and know that somebody is going to take time to listen to them,” Ely concludes. “If we do that, we’ve accomplished much.”
Rebecca Ingram Powell is a pastor’s wife, a mother of three, and an author and conference speaker. Her latest book is “Season of Change: Parenting Your Middle Schooler with Passion and Purpose.” Learn more at www.rebeccapowell.com.