These ideas were adapted from “Family Meals Nourish Body And Soul,” by Extension educators Alice Henneman and LaDeane Jha. Take time and enjoy your family as the time does fly by and this is your building ground for the future. I thank my parents for the wonderful memories they gave me and hope you and your family have just as good memories, if not better. Enjoy the holidays and your family.
How often do you sit down and have a meal with your family? Some families I know say it helps them to be a better family.
Growing up as the youngest of 11, I had a hard time getting a word in edgewise at times. While we were not always together during the week, we always sat and had Sunday dinner together, which provided some of my fondest family memories. We had conversations that would have probably never happened had we not been together. Plus, we planned our week and communicated what was going on.
Our lives get busier now and the years pass by, but consider that it is important for your family to enjoy food and fellowship together. Here’s a thought: Imagine viewing a movie through your DVD on fast forward. You could “see” several movies in the time it takes to watch one at the normal speed. But would you enjoy them as much? If your family’s lives are being lived in fast forward, maybe it’s time to hit “stop” or “pause” for at least one, if not several meals a week.
But be forewarned, before you try to squeeze one more thing into a busy schedule, something might have to go. Consider your priorities and figure out what is the most important use of your time.
Maybe this is not a traditional thing for your family. Or maybe you already do have family meals but your table doesn’t always lead to fascinating family conversations or warm mealtime memories. Here are some ideas that someone shared with me for building family traditions, improving nutrition and reducing stress.
It’s not what but how you feed your family — simple foods served with love and laughter will outshine gourmet goodies almost any time.
It doesn’t have to be hot to be healthy! Tuna sandwiches, a salad and some frozen yogurt are just as healthy as something you slaved over at the stove.
Focus on food choices vs. forcing food – you should allow children to eat until they’re full without forcing one more bite or a clean plate.
Start slow, learn as you go. Don’t try to go from no meals to nightly meals. Start with one meal together weekly. Find what works for your family and go from there.
Take turns talking with a “talking stick.” Give whoever is holding it a turn to talk.
Don’t answer the phone during mealtime. If there are some calls you need to answer immediately, such as those from an ill parent, set a specific ring tone for them so you will know that is a call that has to be answered.
Turn off the TV. Let family members be the star in their own lives and share their experiences.
Get children involved in making meals
Cook it quick but eat it slow. Allow ample time to enjoy the meal with your family.
Table talk tips. Share positive things that have happened during the day. If you struggle for conversation at first, have a table topic or question. Questions asked in our house today are, “What was the best thing about your day? What was the worst thing about your day? And what do you want most or did you learn today?”
4-H is a youth organization for youth K-12 that helps youth learn about certain items of interest to them, but also teaches them life skills. 4-H has a club structure with leaders who are adult volunteers with current background checks. To learn more about the local program, contact Marla Lowder, Tanana District 4-H agent, at 474-2427. You can also check out our web page at www.alaska4h.org/fairbankstanana-district.html. 4-H is a part of the Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Alaska Fairbanks.