Making Mealtimes Work for Your Family

Overscheduled families are struggling to find quality time at the kitchen table
– but the benefits are immediate and long-lasting.

Life Coach and Author Connie Sokol shares a few quick tips turn no family
time into meaningful meal time.

Studies, including a national adolescent health survey, show that the time a
family spends eating meals at home together is the strongest predictor of
children’s academic achievement and psychological adjustment, a protection
against children’s smoking, drinking, or using drugs, and these families had
fewer symptoms of eating disorders among college-age women.

Keep it simple. Make it easy for you. Choose 10 meals that are fast
tacos, crockpot BBQ ribs, etc. For example, I like to make 3-Minute Fajitas—
they’re simple, nutritious, delicious, and you can even make these ahead. For
this recipe and four other quick ones, visit Or, evaluate
your favorite recipes and consider how to simplify. For example, I like
lasagna, but it can be a three-hour tour. So, I boil nine noodles and do three
layers of cottage cheese, Swiss cheese, and natural bottled spaghetti sauce.
Voila—takes me or one of my children five minutes to assemble.

It’s a family matter. Take a minute and assign specific and age-
jobs. Then call it a cool name, like Sous Chef—it makes them more excited.
Even young children can help. The adage is, if they can read they can do
laundry, or in this case open a can, set a table, or clean off a table. Choose
the least busy night of the week and designate it as a “Kids’ Cooking Night”,
allowing them to cook the meal. My six-year-old can make scrambled eggs
like you can’t believe. You are teaching children life skills which instill self-
confidence, never mind an easier cooking time for you (eventually). Make
sure clean-up is understood because children tend to bolt after dinner—one
child we call “Stealth” and I’ve actually seen him quietly hug the railing and
walk down the stairs to escape work. Perhaps try “1-2-3.” One is clearing the
table; two is loading the dishwasher; three is putting leftovers in tubs and
clean counters, etc. This method helps you choose from those readily
available at the dinner table that night. Whatever you do, don’t do it all. Make
it a family matter and they’ll get the concept—it’s family dinner, not Mom
Slave Hour.

Make it fun. You don’t have to whistle while you work, but add
some perks.
Maybe a special apron with their name, or a chef’s hat. For older kids, ask
fun questions—one high or low for the day, or quiz questions from a fun
trivia game. Create a Kids’ Cookbook—don’t make it intense. I typed ours in
black and white and laminated it. Period. The truly fun part is cooking
together, one-on-one, and making memories. One of our children loves
cooking so much that for her birthday she asked for cooking supplies! This
doesn’t mean every meal will be joyous—it won’t be. But generally it will be
bonding and that’s the goal—shared experiences amidst tasty vittles.

This week, try one way to spruce up mealtime and you’ll be enjoying great
meals in a fun atmosphere in no time!

Connie Sokol is the mother of six—expecting her seventh!—and a presenter,
former TV and radio host, and author of several books, including Faithful, Fit
& Fabulous. For tips, columns, and products visit

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