Tips for Family Mealtime from My Kids


It's hard to believe that summer is coming to a close already. Our conversations are drifting away from time at the pool, soccer games and appetizers and drinks on the patio to school clothes, lunch boxes and backpacks. We've had a busy summer and the kids have stayed up late and then slept in and dinner time has been pushed later in the evening. As we prepare to return to our regular routine of work and school, it seemed like a good time to reflect on the past few months so I sat down with the kids and asked them for their thoughts on family mealtime. Miguel said, "We don't always spend a lot of time together during the day so dinner is a time for us to be together." Zeca agreed and added, "We also focus more because we're not on our electronics. And I think it's cool because not all families eat together." The interview was going well but then I asked if there were things they didn't like about family meals and Zeca said, "We don't always talk about things everyone knows about, " and Miguel said, "Yeah, sometimes the parents talk about stuff that we don't know about and that's exclusive."

Nope, we're still not perfect.

Both kids agreed that family dinners made them feel more connected to us and to each other. Our own experience supports what Dr. Doherty found in his study on family mealtime, that 82% of parents and 72% of kids felt more connected when having dinner together.*  Their answers also speak to two of the greatest barriers to family mealtime - busy schedules and technology.

When I asked what changes they'd like to see around mealtime and Zeca said, "I hate doing dishes." Miguel seconded that emotion, "I feel like it's probably good for us but I don't like it." Their suggestions? Miguel doesn't want to do dishes once school starts and Zeca says, "We should have more ice cream."

Despite the horror of doing dishes and the apparent ice cream shortage in our house, the kids feel good about family mealtime and offered the following tips to other families:

Zeca's Tips for Family Mealtime

1. First, you have to be together.

2. Talk about stuff everyone knows about.

3. Compliment or thank someone.

4. Even if you get takeout, you can still sit down at the table together.

5. Make sure you don't talk over other people.

Bonus Tip: Everyone should chew at the same time!

(Parental Note: No. That's not going to happen.)

Miguel's Tips for Family Mealtime

1. If someone is having a bad day, don't ask them about it at dinner. It's awkward. Ask them later.

2. Find a subject everyone can talk about. Don't talk about video games at the table.

3. Make sure to compliment the cook.

4. Try to have good manners because sometimes parents get mad about that and then dinner isn't fun.

5. Let kids have input on the menu.

As the temperatures turn cooler (and they are already getting cooler here in Minnesota) and the start of school approaches, we only plan to make two changes to our mealtime routine. One, we are each going to write down conversation topics on slips of paper and put them in a bowl. Each night we'll draw a topic from the bowl with the hope that our conversations will be more inclusive. Two, we'll switch the kids' dish nights to the weekend. As for the ice cream, we'll have to think about that.

Have you ever asked your kids about mealtime? Any good quips or tips? I'd love to hear them. You can also use #sharethetable on Facebook or Twitter to share them with everyone. Remember that Barilla donates 10 meals to Feeding America every time you use the hashtag. You can learn more about Share The Table here.

*This information taken from Share the Table: Benefits of Family Dinner for Parents and Children, a study by Dr. William Doherty

This is a sponsored post on behalf of Barilla, however, my opinions are entirely my own and I have not been paid to publish positive sentiments towards Barilla or their products.