I recently read a statistic that said the average parent spends 38.5 minutes per week in meaningful conversation with their children. Yes, thirty-eight. I’m guessing meaningful conversation does not include me hollering downstairs, “Remember to bring your laundry up!”
At first, I thought that 38.5 minutes couldn’t possibly be a reality for our family, but then I started thinking about the past two weeks at our house. I’m a mom of two active teenagers. Since school started, their evenings have been filled with homework, tennis matches, Wednesday night church activities, back-to-school parties and a weekend-long church retreat.
When the busy-ness of life starts to get in the way, I feel the need to re-group and anchor my family. The best way I know to do this is to sit down and share a meal together. Often, we end up sharing much more than a meal. We slow down and reconnect. We get to hear what our girls are doing, thinking and feeling. For some reason, they’re much more willing to share this information when holding a fork.
More than a decade of research by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA) has consistently found that the more often kids eat dinner with their families, the less likely they are to smoke, drink or use drugs. Another CASA study reports that eating dinner as a family helps kids get better grades and better nutrition. Studies like these inspired Family Dinner Night, a national movement launched in 2001, to remind parents that frequent family dinners can be an effective tool in raising healthy, responsible young adults. I see it as a place for our kids to learn so many life skills: sharing, table manners, respect, nutrition, compromise. The dinner table is a place to nourish their bodies as well as their spirit.
I have a friend who takes her family dinner conversations a step further. After they say their dinner prayer, each family member gets to share a “high” and a “low” from their day. A high might be a good grade on a quiz. A low might be seeing another child be bullied. Both highs and lows stimulate some amazing dinner table dialogue. While we don’t specifically share highs and lows at our house, I do have some family dinner “rules” that apply every night. No TV and no cell phones. Dinner time is when we disengage from screens and engage with each other.
This year, BLEND and Coborn’s, Inc. are once again joining efforts to celebrate National Family Dinner Night on Sunday, September 23, 2012. To encourage area families to participate, Coborn’s had an easy-to-prepare Chicken Sausage Spaghetti recipe. We decided to kick off our week with this recipe and a sit-down family dinner.
My husband grilled the sausages (not yet NuVal scored) while the girls and I prepared the sauce and pasta. I love the added fresh veggies–onions (NuVal 93), carrots (NuVal 99) and garlic (NuVal 91) — to the jarred tomatoes and spaghetti sauce. While the recipe called for Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes (NuVal 42), I opted to use Food Club Italian Style Diced Tomatoes (NuVal 58). That was my trade-up for this recipe. We used Barilla Spaghetti (NuVal 61) because that is what we had in the pantry. However, you can easily trade up by using Food Club Whole Wheat Pasta (NuVal 91) to get a little more bang for your buck.
We kept it simple with a side salad of greens and veggies. For dessert, we had a sweet and juicy fresh pineapple (NuVal 99). While eating, we got to hear all about the church retreat from our girls…the games, the friends, the fun, the worship, the food, the bus ride…in great detail. And, for the record, it lasted longer than 38 minutes.
What do you do to make family dinner night special? A favorite meal? A traditional prayer? Please post and share.
Enjoy your dinner!
Blog Post Courtesy of Kelly and BLEND.
Read more blog articles from Kelly at http://www.blendcentralmn.org/news/
Passionate about food and good nutrition, Kelly, a BLEND specialist for CentraCare Health Foundation, is also a mom who wants to set her kids up for a lifetime of good health. NuVal is a system designed to lead customers to the most nutritious food choices. It is not a diet or weight-loss plan. The opinions expressed in this blog are the opinions of the writer and not the opinions of NuVal LLC, Coborn’s, Inc., BLEND, and the CentraCare Health Foundation.