How can I Help my Family Consistently Have Family Meals?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Perhaps you’ve read about the benefits of family meals and want to institute regular family meals in your homes. Yet conflicting schedules, and unfamiliarity with family meals can make it hard for a family to consistently have family meals. It can be a little difficult to start having family meals, but once started, there are several ways to maintain a regular family meal schedule.

It's OK to order pizza as a family meal once in a while.
It's OK to order pizza as a family meal once in a while.

If schedules are a big problem, remember that family meals don’t have to mean dinner. Perhaps breakfast is an easier time to all sit down at the table together or lunch works better on weekends than does dinner. Further, though it would be ideal for the family to dine together at every meal, this may not always be possible. After considering your schedules, start small with a goal of two to three family meals a week, unless your schedule permits more.

Family meals can be more appealing when they feel special to all involved.
Family meals can be more appealing when they feel special to all involved.

Family meals are easier to keep going when certain rules are in place for all members. These rules should include: no telephones, no TV, and no lectures from parents. There are good times for kids to get lectures or have serious talks with parents, but children who feel the family meal will result in a tongue lashing are highly unlikely to want to attend. Instead keep conversation light and breezy, in other words, conversational. If you can’t think of topics, consider letting everyone have a chance to tell the best and worse thing that happened that day. Let little ones take turns first as they are often impatient.

One-dish meals such as stew can make prep for family meals easy,.
One-dish meals such as stew can make prep for family meals easy,.

Though family meals can be a chance to exhibit your cooking skills, or to teach cooking skills to children, not all family meals need to be prepared at home. A family meal can evolve around pizza and salad. You may actually get more family time if you’re not slaving over a hot stove, especially if one person is in charge of meal preparation.

Setting the table with candles can create a special atmosphere.
Setting the table with candles can create a special atmosphere.

Also, family meals don’t necessarily have to take place around a table. You can vary the scene by taking a picnic to a nearby park, having an indoor picnic on the floor during the rainy season, or by going out to a restaurant. Family meals simply mean that all immediate family members are present without distractions.

Involving the whole family in cooking is a great way to institute regular family meals.
Involving the whole family in cooking is a great way to institute regular family meals.

When dining at home, involve children in transitional activities, like setting or decorating the table, that will pull them away from distracting activities like phone calls, computer games or TV. In fact it helps to set a time and stick to it. Since the nature of family meals is to casually dine together, don’t allow a hectic schedule to ruin an otherwise amicable meal.

Grilling out is a great way to bring the family together for a meal during the summer.
Grilling out is a great way to bring the family together for a meal during the summer.

Family meals can be more attractive to children when they take a little special effort. You can set the “mood” for meals by playing low music, decorating the table with flowers, or even having a candlelit dinner with the family. These things are appreciated by adults and children alike, and can make coming to the table a special event.

Families might schedule out a different meal for every night of the week.
Families might schedule out a different meal for every night of the week.

If you fall off schedule and drop back into old habits that don’t include family meals, start over. Continued efforts will help you to make new habits and traditions with your family. Also, keep family meals lively by varying what you serve, the conversation, and perhaps even trying out some “elegant” or period meals with your family. By serving up variety you are also serving up quality family time.

Initially, aim for two or three family meals each week, schedules permitting.
Initially, aim for two or three family meals each week, schedules permitting.
Planning a picnic on a regular basis can be a good way to have family meals.
Planning a picnic on a regular basis can be a good way to have family meals.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments

wesley91

@alex94: I know that it can be overwhelming to try to cook a meal that everyone will enjoy while incorporating healthy foods. I had the same problem in my house. My kids wanted mac and cheese every night and ramen noodles all weekend long. Not to mention the countless snacks in between with plenty of frozen pizzas and burritos.

I basically had to take the junk out of the house. I have tried to flavor up the veggies by adding cheese or things like that. It’s a huge transition but it’s very much worth it. Also, I told my kids that they could not have any desserts unless they ate at least half of their vegetables. Healthy family meals are essential to the health of our children.

alex94

My problem is that my kids don't like everything that I cook. They do not like vegetable dishes. There actually aren't many vegetables that they eat at all. They basically want meat, potatoes, and things like that. I go to school and work full time and I have to make easy family meals. I need help!

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