As Easter approaches you may be in a tizzy with menu planning for your family gathering. Maybe you are trying to put a healthier twist on your usual Easter dishes. Maybe you don’t care about a healthy Easter and you just want to make sure there is food to eat. Or maybe Easter will be like any other Sunday for you.
Whatever your case, I think it’s important for you to remember to look past the nutrition labels of your food and look at the faces that surround you. Not only at Easter time but at any time.
Losing Family Meal Time
Family gatherings and family meal times seem to be obsolete these days. In an age of screens and microwaves it is so easy for each family member to make their own food and eat it in front of their own screen on their own schedule.
But you can be the catalyst that changes this.
I encourage you to make family meal time gathered around a table a priority. And what better time to implement your strategy than at an Easter gathering.
My childhood was nowhere near fairy tale caliber but it was consistent. I knew that most every meal would be shared around the kitchen or dining room table. Sometimes there was a light-hearted mood and lots of chatter and giggles. Sometimes there was a heaviness that seemed to weigh our lips shut except to eat. No matter the situation, family meal time was a constant. It could be counted on. To a child going through any type of self-uncertainty or trials at school, at home or wherever – consistency can be their stabilizing anchor.
A Healthy Easter Dinner is Relative
Don’t pressure yourself into thinking a family sit-down dinner has to be perfect or elaborate. Pizza will do. Macaroni and cheese and hot dogs will do. Just get food on the table. Create an inviting opportunity for everyone under your roof to gather at a common place at a common time.
We are whole beings: emotional, spiritual and physical. And if the first two areas are out of whack, it won’t matter that you are eating the purest, healthiest food on the planet. You cannot forsake one or two areas of your being for the purpose of preserving the third and still be healthy. It may not be immediate, but eventually the forsaken area(s) will pull down your overall health.
That’s why I think it’s important to do the best you can but not obsess over the times when you aren’t doing your best. As I mention here, I try to do the best I can with the resources I have. Then I don’t fret about the rest.
So don’t fret about the nutritional value right away. First, let family meal time become habit. A constant. Something your family can come to rely on. After you feel comfortable with this, then begin to focus on the nutritional value of your family dinner.
Involve the Kids
As you become comfortable with making family meal time a constant, you can start to find ways to get your kids involved in preparing dinner. Are they old enough to chop vegetables? Can they open the stick of butter and add some to the peas? Maybe they can set the table.
You can take your kids’ involvement a step further depending on their ages. Have them plan a meal. Have them prepare a meal. If they are independent enough, have them plan and prepare a meal.
Giving your kids responsibilities like these can help them feel like an important part of the family unit. They can feel that what they have to contribute is important, helpful and meaningful.
Provide the Opportunity to Share
In preparing for family meal time, warn your family members that they will have to put their phones, ear buds, etc. away when it’s time for dinner. As you sit around your family dinner table, keep it casual. You might even have a few stories from your childhood or past life to share. This will show your human, vulnerable side to your kids. Sure, it may be awkward at first if you aren’t used to looking at each other’s faces and asking for things to be passed. You can have some prepared questions or topics of interest to cover, but don’t force it too much.
As meal times become the norm, your family will begin to relax into this gathering time. Nothing profound has to be shared, no big announcements or games have to take place, you just have to be there. The consistency of this will create its own opportunity for you all to grow closer as a family if you continue it through good days and bad days, times of moodiness and celebration.
The Importance of Family
If you are a very busy family, you may have to work harder at establishing a common meal time. Maybe for your family it is breakfast. Or maybe you have to start with only Saturdays and Sundays. In the case that you have fewer times of family meal time, you’ll have to work harder to protect that time.
Make it work for you and what you know you can expect from your family. One way you can make family meal time more appealing is opening it up for your kids to invite a friend. You expect your children to be present but you don’t care if their friends join you. This will show your children how they have an important place in your family.
A Chance to Honor an Individual Family Member
One advantage of having everyone gathered for a family meal is it gives everyone a chance to acknowledge a birthday, anniversary, award, or sports victory in a family member’s life. Perhaps you can prepare a favorite dish of the honored family member. Depending on the age of your children you can have a special plate they get to eat off of for that whole day. Or you can have a special dessert like root beer floats to celebrate.
Whatever the occasion, this time around the table is the perfect opportunity to take turns making each family member feel special throughout the year.
Keeping it Real Even After Easter
Let your kids know what’s going on. Explain to them how you want to enjoy more meals together as a family. Ask them for their input and ideas on implementing this.
Even if your kids think this is a dumb idea, at least they are seeing you be vulnerable. Even if nothing goes smoothly, your kids are seeing you try. Even if you only have time to make chicken nuggets or Hamburger Helper, your kids are seeing you make an extra effort.
Choose this Easter as a turning point for your family dinner times. Let your kids see that you are serious about wanting to share a meal with the whole family, even after Easter has come and gone.
As the homemaker, you are entrusted to look after your family’s physical health. By enjoying more meaningful dinner times with your family you are looking after their emotional and spiritual health as well.
You’ve got this, Mama!