5 Principles to Make Your Family Meals More Successful

Our family recently went to Ecuador to spend time with loved ones. One of the main things that most stood out was how every meal was a small ritual of love and culture.

Breakfast went beyond the simple cereal and milk, and rather included a sit down option of several juices, eggs, cheese, bologna, breads and coffee. Lunch was no different… serving a delicious and creamy vegetable soup and a main course. Dinner was equally filling with a large serving of rice, lentils and a fried or grilled piece of steak or chicken.

Although the meal was quite satisfying, what was more filling was the emotional portions of sharing and talking while consuming the food. There was no rush to finish, because we followed an “intuitive” time to the end of our meal and conversation. In between every morsel of food was the story of the day. Every serving included a new ingredient to bring each member of the family together.

When I think of how family meals have changed in the United States, I remember it was not long ago, generationally speaking, when families sat down for dinner and enjoyed each other’s company. With soccer and piano practices in the afternoon, church meetings and last minute grocery shopping, family members seldom enjoy a family meal, or as I grew to call it a RITUAL OF LOVE AND CULTURE.

These rituals should happen at best once a day or 3-4 times a week at least and should be relaxed and without time pressures. I’ve personally learned 5 principles that help our family gather daily around the dinner table and I want to share them with you:

1) Let each member of the family know that a daily family meal is a must. When each member knows Family Meal Time is an important family value, there are no excuses or appointments that “come up.”  I know as children get older a daily family meal isn’t always feasible, but there should be at least 3-4 times a week where you SCHEDULE this important time as a family.

2) Develop a routine for setting the table and a special “call” to get everyone ready. The pre-ritual is almost as fun as the ritual itself. Getting young ones involved in putting the placemats and utensils on the table and ringing a bell or calling each person by name is a fun part of gathering the family. It is no fun when mom is doing all the prep work on her own and she calls and nobody answers. Instead, choose to engage everyone BEFORE the actual meal using aromas, music and conversation.

3) Let conversations occur naturally, but proactively work towards making them lively. Meals at our house are loud and fun…that is because everyone wants to share what happened during the day. Asking questions and taking the initiative in sharing is the perfect way to lead the children into the bonding time we are so eager to achieve. Conversation around the dinner table is the perfect atmosphere to discuss goals, dreams, fears, character strengths, stories, anecdotes, etc..


Standing, while eating, carries a message of being in a hurry, whereas sitting is more inviting and conducive to relationship. #family



Shirley Solis, Tweet This

4) Dump the clock at least 4 times a week. Time is a family meal’s worse enemy, because time doesn’t always honor people. That is why you must plan to enjoy at least 4 meals without rushing. No meetings. No recitals. No practices. No need to finish to get onto the next thing. Just your family and your delicious meal- without the pressures of time.

5) Make sure you sit around the table- don’t stand! I’ve often seen families who eat standing around a counter or while watching TV. I highly recommend you make a beautiful sacred space around a dining table and allow the space to welcome the meal and the conversation. Standing, while eating, carries a message of being in a hurry, whereas sitting is more inviting and conducive to relationship. 

I highly encourage you to evaluate your current family meals, AKA “rituals of love and culture,” and figure out how to make them everlasting rituals that include delicious meals and a time to bring each member of your family together, by purposely setting time aside to nurture an atmosphere of growth in our bodies and our souls.

Question- What are your favorite conversations around the dinner table?

**This article was originally written for and published in Homeschooling Today Magazine. 

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