One of my fond memories of family mealtime is when our oldest son was in junior high school. Reading to my children was very important to me. During grade school, I read to my kids — and they read to me — on most school nights.
When our oldest entered junior high, life after school was crazy. It seemed like everybody was going 100 different directions. Soccer games. Piano lessons. Homework. I struggled to find time to read to the kids. I felt grateful just to get them to do their homework.
One day, I had an idea! Why not read to my kids at breakfast? What a wonderful solution.
So instead of eating breakfast, I read to my family. Our kids and even my husband would linger a little longer listening to me read. I loved it!
Then, came high school and marching band — which was held before school. The younger kids refused to get up at the unearthly hour to have breakfast with their older brother. That eliminated reading to my kids at breakfast. Sigh.
Eating meals together as a family has been very important to me. We ate as a family as I was growing up. (I loved it when my mom made spaghetti!) As a parent, it was important for my family to eat together. So, I was very interested when I read the book Home for Dinner by Anne K. Fishel. What a great book!
Is your family crazy busy? Do you rarely eat together as a family? On those rare days that you do eat together, is there bickering, tension, and complaining about food? If so, this book is for you!
Fishel provides compelling research data that supports eating meals together as a family. Here are some interesting tidbits:
- Regular family meals have been shown to lower obesity rates in children.
- Dinner conversation boosts children’s vocabulary far more than reading to them. (I guess I should have been talking to my kids at breakfast instead of reading to them!)
- Adolescents who ate dinner with their family 5 to 7 times a week were twice as likely to get A’s in school than those who ate with their families fewer than 3 times a week.
- Children who ate meals with their family had better mental health.
- Teens who ate dinner with their parents consumed more fruits and vegetables and fewer fried foods and soft drinks.
- Research showed that there were lower rates of substance abuse, pregnancy, and depression in children who ate meals with their families.
Those are some powerful reasons to pull your family together to eat dinner!
Fishel addresses all of the issues surrounding family mealtimes — lack of time, picky eaters, contention, busy schedules. You name it, she discusses it.
One of the fun things about the book is that there are recipes sprinkled throughout. Fishel includes recipes for empanadas, fajitas, berries and cream, fish tacos, lasagna, guacamole, and muffins. I’ve got to try them all!
Fishel also shares lots of stories. One was especially poignant to me. A single mother of three went to Fishel for parenting advice. During the therapy, Fishel asked the woman to describe family mealtimes. The woman refused and for months couldn’t talk about it. When she did open up, she shared her traumatic experience.
The woman’s mother drank wine all day long. (So the unspoken message here was that she was drunk when dinnertime arrived.) For some unknown reason, her parents singled this woman out from her 3 siblings. The woman had to sit at the dinner table and watch everybody eat but she wasn’t allowed to eat anything. How awful! That certainly did not create a strong family tie.
Fishel pulls the data, the stories, and her experience to dish up (pun intended) a book full of suggestions on how to make mealtime a time to increase family happiness and connectedness. I recommend that you buy one for each of your children — and one for you. It’s a great motivation for families to eat together.
This book is a must-have for every family! You can find Home for Dinner on Amazon.com for $12.60 in paperback or $9.99 for a Kindle version.
As a grandparent, you are a step removed from your grandchildren’s mealtime. However, a few ideas popped into my head as I read this book. Here are some ideas that grandparents can do:
- Take a cooking class with a grandchild.
- Make sure you include grandchildren in fixing meals when they come to your home.
- Establish a cooking/baking tradition — making sugar cookies for Valentine’s Day, making gingerbread houses at Christmas, fixing a healthy salad for the 4th of July.
- Give your grandchild cooking items that he could use at home — a special spoon for serving a salad, a special oven mitt to get hot things out of the oven, a spatula that can withstand high temperatures.
- Spend time searching together online for recipes. Then, make the dish together.
- Invite a grandchild for dinner for her birthday (with you and grandpa) where the grandchild selects the menu and helps to prepare one of the dishes.
- When eating meals with a grandchild, be prepared with interesting topics to introduce into the conversation. Make conversation fun, light, and entertaining.
(Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book to review. However, that did not influence my opnion of it in any way.)
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