NDSU Extension - Sargent County


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Where There's a Will, There's a Way

Where There's a Will, There's a Way  06/17/16Last weekend my mom told me about one of my cousins who got creative with their child’s graduation reception.  It was not an afternoon reception.  It was not an evening reception.  It was a morning reception.  Yes!  The family hosted an open-house reception for their graduate from 8:30 – 11:30 a.m.  Guests were treated to a breakfast/brunch buffet that included waffles, assorted syrups, a variety of fresh fruit, mini-muffins, and a selection of beverages including fruit juices, coffee, flavored teas, and milk.

It made me think of how we sometimes need to get creative and maybe think outside the box, or try non-traditional strategies to face challenges and achieve our goals. For example, “family mealtime.”

In many homes, shared mealtimes with family members seem to be on their way to extinction, just like the dinosaurs.  The obstacles that seem to interfere with shared family meals include extracurricular schedules for children’s activities, work/job schedules, and the intrusion of technology on mealtimes.  Sometimes it seems impossible to get the family together for a meal.  Enter the determined parent, ready to seek and try a clever and creative approach to remedy the problem!

Why are some parents so determined to bring the family back to the table for meals?  Perhaps it is because they’ve read the research, and they want their child to reap the benefits.  Children who regularly eat meals with their families earn higher grades in school, have larger vocabularies and better communication skills, and make more nutritious food choices.  Additionally, children who eat family meals are less likely to be depressed, have an eating disorder, or engage in other types of risky behaviors. 

To make family meals happen at your house, consider these suggestions:

  • Plan carefully so that you match schedules and meals.  If lunch (dinner) and dinner (supper) times won’t work, remember that breakfast is a meal and make it your shared meal of the day.  Provide nutritious and delicious food options.  Engage everyone in conversation that starts their day on a positive note.  Share a fun fact, ask a light-hearted question or play soft background music. Plan ahead to make sure everyone gets to bed early enough the night before so they are at the table for “the most important meal of the day.”
  • Start your mealtime off by going on a brisk family walk.  Exercise helps people detach from work and enjoy a new kind of happy hour.  Try having raw fruit, veggies, cheese and nuts available as appetizers while everyone works together to prepare the meal and table.
  • Be brave enough to switch it up.  Some days the shared meal could be breakfast; other days dinner can be the shared meal.  Make it work for your family’s schedule.  To help with meal or menu planning, give everyone a paper plate at one of the meals and have them write down a menu idea for one of next week’s shared meals. 
  • Make mealtimes socially enjoyable with positive, pleasant conversation. If you are struggling to get those kinds of conversations started, make or buy a set of conversation starters.

The benefits of family meals make them well worth the effort, and they pay big dividends far into the future in terms of building positive relationships and creating precious memories.

Adapted from: “If Meals Were More Fun,” by  Sean Brotherson, Ph.D., Professor and Extension Family Science Specialist and Kim Bushaw, M.S., Extension Family Science Specialist, Department of Human Development and Family Sciences, NDSU, Eat Smart Play Hard Magazine 2016-2017.

Photo Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/usdagov/6280586996 (downloaded 06/21/16)


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