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Real Family Dinner Projects: The Miller Family

Posted on: February 3rd, 2020 by Bri DeRosa

Meet the Millers! Tori is a parent educator with the Military Child Education Coalition, so she knows a thing or two about family dinners. We first connected with her through our ongoing work with organizations that support military families, and are happy she and her family agreed to share their story with us! *Please note: We have used a pseudonym for this family’s surname, at their request.

The Family:

Scott and Tori Miller, and their kids Luke (19), Lance (15) and Wills (14), from Fort Hood, Texas.

The Goals:

Since the Millers are pros at having great family dinners, their goal is to aim for five times a week. However, as a military family, they also know that time together is precious and that gathering everyone for meals may not always be possible. Tori works as an educator for other military families to help teach them to make the most of family meals. The program goal is to help families use mealtimes to keep connections strong.

“As a military family, we understand the value of quality family time. We don’t often get the quantity of time we desire so we make the most of the limited time we can be together. Family dinners give us precious time to reconnect and build memories.”

The Challenges:

Time and distance are always factors for the Millers and other military families. Sports and work events make weeknights busy, and with Luke in college, the Millers can’t all eat together each night. They, like other military families, have also dealt with deployment adding distance to dinners. But Tori says Facetime is a big help. “We will often Facetime him during dinner so he can talk with all of us around the table. Gives us a sense of him being with us for our family discussions.”

The Strategies:

Tori says that during a typical week, she tries to keep things simple and have low-prep, easy items on hand for meals. Planning ahead and quick meal ideas help ensure dinner is ready when the family is. However, the Millers also try to make a point of rearranging schedules if they can in order to be together. They’ll also sometimes choose to eat together at another time of day, or have an early dinner, to make sure they can share a meal.

But dinner is about more than just eating. The Millers also use family dinner to help teach manners and responsibility. “We all contribute to the meal in some way whether it is dish duty afterwards, setting the table, or helping to prepare. It is important for us to raise them up in a way that equips them to fit comfortably into any social setting that involves food.” Good conversation is also part of teaching manners and connecting to each other, so the family often uses conversation starters to help get things flowing. Tori says the boys especially like pulling out conversation starters when friends join them for dinner.

All of these principles — raising kids to help, gathering for shared meals and enjoying quality time — are part of Tori’s work with other military families. She runs a program teaching parents to get into the kitchen with their children and learn to cook together. The sessions also include trying out conversation starters, playing dinner games and doing simple fun activities like decorating placemats. Tori wants families to leave with practical skills like food prep and table setting, but also new ideas to help make dinner an opportunity for quality family time.

The Food:

The Millers may try to keep dinner simple most evenings, but they love to build memories over one time-consuming task. Tori says that in the summer, the family can spend hours outside shelling crabs and listening to music.

The Takeaway:

Tori’s message for the families she teaches is a good reminder for everyone. “(Our) biggest use of The Family Dinner Project is sharing the website ideas with our families and encouraging them to make the family dinner time fun, engaging and not overly complicated!”

The Best Part:

“Catching up on the day and talking about the activities for the week,” Tori says. “Dinner time is often the only time that we are all together for the entire day.”

Do you have your own family dinner project to share with us, or would you like to learn more about how to involve The Family Dinner Project in your community group? We’d love to hear from you! Contact Us.