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Newsletter: April 2020

Family Dinner During Quarantine

There’s no way to ease into this: If you’re reading this message, you’re probably doing so from home. The coronavirus pandemic has forced most families to stay at home, start virtual learning programs, set up makeshift home offices, and in all other ways try to start a “new normal.”

There’s nothing normal about any of this. But we know everyone’s doing their best, and we want to help if we can. Our team is just like you: Families of all different configurations trying to stay safe — and sane — while we wait for the current situation to pass. For us, family meals are still one of the moments during the day when we feel like we are following a “normal” routine. They might not look and feel exactly the same as they did when grocery shopping was easy and schedules were busy, but the basics of food, fun and conversation with our loved ones haven’t changed. So we hope you’re also able to gather for, and even enjoy, some family meals during quarantine. Here are our thoughts and tips to help you stick with family mealtimes while you’re staying home.

  • Let it be.
    Suddenly being in charge of every aspect of your family’s life — work, school, activities, personal wellness, enrichment, stimulation, nutrition, and so on — is a lot of responsibility. There are lots of well-meaning internet posts and shareables out there that are supposed to provide help. (Some of them are ours!) But all that “help” can also be overwhelming. It’s okay to not make every moment, or every meal, magical. Using conversation starters and games can be great, if you’re up to it. But if making sure everyone gets fed is all you can manage some days, that’s great, too. Don’t pressure yourself to be The Best Family Dinner Parent Ever.
  • Allow feelings.
    We all want to be positive and stay upbeat in the face of adversity. Being resilient sets a great example for our kids, and helps adults manage day-to-day anxieties as well. But there’s no denying that being stuck at home during a very concerning world health crisis comes with major downsides. Whether your family is dealing with run-of-the-mill disappointments like cancelled parties and missed playdates, or more urgent concerns like layoffs or illness, it’s okay to acknowledge everyone’s emotions. You’re allowed to be scared, upset, frustrated and disappointed! The key is channeling those feelings so they don’t take over. Maybe you can try turning some of our tried-and-true dinner games into “venting games.” Instead of “Rose, Thorn and Bud,” your family might need to take an evening to acknowledge that you’re not seeing many roses. Maybe tonight it’s all thorns (disappointments) and buds (things you’re really going to enjoy when this quarantine period is over!). Or instead of “20 Things I Love About…” you might allow one night where you play “20 Things I Hate About Social Distancing.” Sometimes getting it all out there helps.
  • Keep a routine.
    In the midst of keeping things low-pressure and letting people blow off steam, it’s also important — if you can manage it — to keep some semblance of routine. Part of what’s hard about the current situation is the loss of daily rituals and predictability. One reason family meals can be so valuable in times like these is that they provide an automatic sense of ritual. So do your best to make at least one mealtime per day a predictable, scheduled event. Have breakfast, lunch or dinner together at the same time every day. Find a way to transition into the meal that everyone recognizes. Maybe you turn on some music, and that’s the cue for family members to set the table. Or maybe you invite everyone into the kitchen to start helping with food prep. Whatever you choose, helping family members transition to the table (or the counter, or the picnic blanket in the living room) can provide a sense that there’s still structure in the day.
  • Enjoy it when you can.
    We won’t tell you that you should strive to love every minute of every meal right now. But don’t forget to introduce a little fun on the days when you feel up to it. This is a great job to delegate to kids — make them the “Fun Squad!” Ask them to put together a family fun kit for mealtimes. They can add simple card games, trivia questions or board games to a basket so you’re ready to play while you eat. Suggest that they use the randomizer on our Fun page to come up with new games to play. Or let them choose a movie for a family Dinner and a Movie night, or a book to read together during meals. Almost anything goes, as long as it’s something that you can all enjoy doing together while you eat.

There’s no doubt that these are unusual times, and nothing feels quite the way it usually does. But some things — like family meals — can continue with a few changes from the norm. Now is a time to enjoy the benefits of a routine and appreciate the little things as much as possible. Find the “roses” when you can, acknowledge the “thorns,” and look forward to the “buds!” They’re coming. Hang in there, families!

Family of the Month

This month’s family of the month is…yours! We’ve put together this Virtual Dinner Guide to help you connect with friends and family for food, fun and conversation during social distancing. We hope you’ll enjoy some time together and share your experiences — maybe your story will be featured here soon!

Download Our Pandemic 2020 Virtual Dinner Party Guide Now

Food

These Banana Mug Cakes from our book Eat, Laugh, Talk: The Family Dinner Playbook are perfect for stuck-at-home meals. They’re easy to make, even for young kids; single-serving, so you can only make what you need; and use just a handful of ingredients that you probably already have on hand.

Banana Chocolate Chip Mug Cakes

Fun

While you’re staying home, you might find yourself spending more time in the kitchen as a family. Try our Family Iron Chef Challenge to spice things up!

Iron Chef, Family Edition

Conversation

 

If you don’t already have a conversation jar on your table to help get your family talking, this is an ideal time to make one. Download our printable cut-apart conversation sheets to get things started!

Printable Conversation Jar Sheets