Two Family Dinner Secrets for Raising Happier Children

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Many of us women work, I know, but dinnertime is something that binds our families together, and a wise mother will treat it as a priority. Dinnertime is one of the most important daily events in every successful family’s life.

You’ll learn two secrets to help your family benefit the most from dinnertime meals, and to raise happier children because of it, but allow me to first preface the secrets with a mention of the facts.

In Leonard Sax's book, The Collapse of Parenting," he stresses not only the importance of shared family meals, but that each and every meal counts towards raising a happier child. 

There are plenty of studies to support the greater well-being of children from merely sharing a dinnertime meal with their families. 

My own experience proves this to be true. The times when I begin to falter, usually from unusually high work demands, my children and I start to feel less disconnected from one another. Feeling distant is to be expected because we see each other less. Everyone is busy doing their own thing.

Looking back, I had a stepmother who still amazes me because she understood this principle, and not only did she understand it, but she lived it to the "T."

Let me share with you two of her secrets that made her dinnertime ritual so successful.

1) Every evening at 5:30 p.m., she would serve dinner. But my stepmother didn't just serve dinner.

She laid a beautiful table in the dining room with china plates and silver goblets and cloth napkins. And every night, she prepared a deliciously gourmet meal.

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These fancy and elaborate dinners became crystal clear memories of pleasant times spent enjoying scrumptious food and interesting conversations with my family. 

We never ate dinner in the kitchen, which we could have easily done. It was a big kitchen with a big kitchen table, and it would have been much quicker and much faster for my stepmother to serve dinner in the kitchen.

But she understood that dinner time wasn't just about getting your belly full. Dinner time meant honoring the need to come together as a family in special way to reconnect after a full day and strengthen the family bonds.

She wouldn't have put it in those words; no one back then did. But they had these rituals in place which served these purposes. 

In honoring the dinner time ritual, my stepmother made an event out of it. The event was the beautiful dinner table she set up in the dining room. To this day, I marvel over the effort she went to to make sure that we all thoroughly enjoyed our meal together.

Her dining table was always set for a king and made dining at it the kind of experience one doesn't forget.

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That was her first secret.

2) Her second secret was in her gourmet meals. When it came to the preparation, most of them weren't really gourmet meals. Keep in mind that she was a 1950's cook and back then it was common to use canned foods as a base for many meals.

For example, instead of making your own chicken stock, you bought it in a can. Instead of making your own mushroom cream sauce, you bought it in a can. 

My stepmother used a lot of cans of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup for her bases. I remember that. I still have one of her recipe books that calls for creamed soup in about half of the recipes!

While you don't have to use canned soups, you can use the 1950's secret to regular gourmet meals for dinner.

Here are a few tips for doing this:

  • Plan your meals a week ahead of time (and longer if you can)

  • Shop one day a week instead of seven

  • Prep some of the food ahead of time like chopping vegetable and making stocks

  • When it’s time to cook, keep your meals as simple to put together as you possibly can.

Doing these things will ensure 1) that you put a meal on the table and 2) that your meal deceives one into thinking you spent the entire day in the kitchen. 

A formal dining experience and a short cut to meal preparation are the secret sauces you need to master the dinnertime ritual for your family; a ritual that will keep your family's bond strong and help you raise happier children and keep everyone’s belly content. 

Your children will remember your magnificent efforts many years later, and they'll develop a deep appreciation for them. 

To help you get started, I've included a free Shopping Checklist template for you. I use this, too, and it makes shopping easier and faster with fewer trips back to the store. 

A fabulous dinner time experience is where it all happens - don’t let your family miss out!

P. S. If you have any tips of your own, please share them in the comment section, and remember to get your free Shopping Checklist.

You can also join the Smart Homeschooler Academy waiting list to be notified when enrollment opens again for its signature course: How to Give Your Child a Private-School Education at Home.

Elizabeth Y. Hanson combines her training in holistic medicine, “Love and Leadership” parenting coach certificate, plus 17+ years working in education to provide you with a unique approach to raising and educating your children.

A veteran homeschooler herself, she now has two successfully homeschooled children in college.