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The Albert family

From Spaghetti O’s to ‘Ratatouille’ sauce

Background: Time with the kids

Scott, a divorced father of three teenage children, has a girlfriend whom he is hoping to marry. He works from home in a screen-printing business doing logos for sports teams and colleges. Part of the reason why Scott is in this business is because it provides him with an opportunity to be with his kids when they are at his house.  If he worked in an office, finding time to spend with his children would be even more difficult.

Starting point: Disorganized dinners and “anything easy”

Currently, dinner is not well organized at home. He makes sure to feed his kids, but usually they eat in front of the television, and the food is not prepared ahead of time. Often Scott does not eat because he claims that he is not hungry. “In general, our common routine is to throw something together,” says Scott. “I do my thing at night and the boys do their homework. When it gets later, I realize I have to get them fed before they go to bed. I’ll give them hot dogs, Spaghetti O’s, macaroni and cheese, soup — anything easy.”

Scott does not remember family dinners in his own home growing up. After much thought, he talks about bringing Chinese food in from time to time, but does not recall either of his parents cooking.

Setting goals: Healthier food, more conversation, fostering connection

Scott decided to become a part of The Family Dinner Project because he wanted more connection with his children. He wants them to get to know each other, and not just view dinner as a time to catch up with television.

Scott has three goals: 1) to have more pre-planned dinners consisting of healthy food (not just something that “comes out of a box”); 2) to have more conversation at the dinner table; and 3) to have more connection with his kids.

Success!: Dinner as a team effort

Scott had three family dinners over the course of three months. Reportedly, he tried to make these dinners “fun,” so that the kids would want to come back to the table (rather than just wanting to watching television).

He chose food that they liked and could help prepare (e.g. pasta and pizza), and he also planned an activity for dinner, either a game or a movie. Scott believes that his kids learned to enjoy dinnertime because of these activities and because they had a “hand in it.” They liked thinking about the ingredients that would top a pizza, or replicating the sauce for pasta based on the movie Ratatouille (the second dinner’s activity).

Even though the conversation was “silly” during these meals, Scott valued the time with his children and believes that this is the first step in their progress.

Looking ahead: Keeping the conversation going

Scott hopes to continue the habits and rituals that they have begun to practice as a family. As he says, “Participation in the project made us think more consciously about dinner as a family, to the point where the boys even suggest it on their on now. With that, everything will fall in line — conversation will happen more, because the activities inspire conversation, and this will make us more involved in our kids’ lives.”