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Newsletter: January 2013

Tips for Better Family Dinners in 2013

Tips for Better Family Dinners in 2013What moments filled you and your family with pride in 2012? And what positive changes do you hope to make in 2013?

We know that January (the darkest, coldest month of the year!) can feel like a tough time to start a new habit. But if you stick with a change for 3 weeks, research suggests that the behavior will start to sink in.

Manageable changes are more likely to stick, so try to make resolutions that are achievable and specific. This could be as simple as making more vegetable side dishes, having family dinner an extra night each week or keeping your cell phone pocketed at the table.

Here are some tips for forming new habits, provided by Dr. Anne Fishel.

  1. Start Small: Rather than trying to tackle a big goal all at once, set small, achievable goals. For example, include more salads with your meals or light candles to make dinner feel special.
  2. Use a Buddy: Change is often easier with a buddy (or a group!). This person will keep you accountable, cheer you up and suggest ideas when you encounter setbacks. Ask a friend or family member to join you in your goal.
  3. Have a Plan: What will you do first? How will you chart your progress? What are some obstacles you might encounter? Write down a plan for how you will change your behavior over time.
  4. Focus on You: Make your resolution a promise to yourself, not to someone else. Every day, remind yourself of why this new behavior is important to you!
  5. Prepare for Missteps: When you slip, be kind to yourself. Real change can be hard, and setbacks are almost always part of the process. Use stumbles as opportunities to learn something new about yourself.


Setting Dinner Goals

If your resolution is to have better, more frequent family dinners in 2013, start by asking your family what they would like to improve about dinner. Then, as a group, commit to two or three manageable goals. Here are a few possible family dinner changes:

  1. QuinoaEat Healthier: Carrots, mixed greens, spinach, kale—these vibrant vegetables are great for you! Start small, and try a new veggie side-dish or attempt a “meat free” night. Cooking Light has some excellent vegetarian recipe ideas and you can’t go wrong with quinoa salad!
  2. Talk More: Strengthen family bonds by resolving to have more in-depth conversations at the table. These conversation tips and the discussion ideas below will help you move beyond “one word” answers. Additionally, check out our blog about encouraging kids to express feelings at dinner!
  3. Include Kids in Dinner: From chopping tomatoes to picking out music for the meal, kids can help with dinner in all sorts of ways. This helps them learn valuable cooking skills and encourages family bonding. Here’s how to get your kids more involved in the dinner process.
  4. Have More Fun!: Ok, so this blog post is titled “9 Fun Food Activities for Spring Break,” but you could do them any time of year. Why not make a meal from a favorite book or have the kids transform the dining room into a restaurant?
  5. Plan Meals in Advance: It takes a bit of forethought, but planning meals can be a huge help. On the weekend, set aside an hour to scan recipes and write down your meals for that week. This cuts down on weekday stress and worrying!

Remember: You don’t have to be perfect! Missing some nights won’t keep you from achieving your dinner goals – but getting discouraged will. Let go of perfect and keep trying!


New Year’s Games & Activities

Reflecting and Resolving

Grandpa Two KidsHave family members write down their five proudest moments from 2012, as well as five things they’d like to accomplish in 2013. Once you’re gathered for dinner, share your accomplishments and hopes!

Mad Lib Resolutions

After you’ve shared your real resolutions with each other, have fun with our Mad Libs-style resolutions. Fill in the blanks with suggestions from different family members. Then read each resolution out loud!

  • This year, ______________(name) will eat more ____________(noun) made with organic ____________(noun) so that he/she will feel more _____________(adjective).
  • This year, ______________(name) will stop spending money on unnecessary ___________(nouns) so that he/she can buy the ____________(adjective) ____________(noun) that he/she has always wanted.
  • This year, ______________(name) will do ___________(large number) push-ups for __________(small number) minutes so that he/she will have the physique of a ____________(animal).
  • This year, _____________(name) will meditate for ______(number) hours while chanting ____________(song) in order to find inner ________________(feeling).


Conversation Starters

So many things to think about with the start of a new year! Kick off the discussion with these questions:

For Younger Kids:

  • What has been your favorite part of school this year?
  • What is one thing you can do to help a friend next year?
  • What’s one fun thing you hope to do in the new year?

For 8-12 years old:

  • What was your favorite thing that you learned this year (either in school or outside of it)?
  • What is one thing you’d like to learn how to do next year?
  • What was the most surprising thing that happened to you this year?

For 13-18 years old:

  • What was your favorite news story from this year?
  • Think about a time when you have changed something in your life for the better. What was it and how did you do it?
  • How do you want to impact the world next year?


But Wait, There’s More!

For even more recipes, activity tips and conversation ideas, visit The Family Dinner Project. You can read our Family Blog for ideas and inspiration, get advice and tips from family therapist Dr. Anne Fishel, and find new ways to have dinnertime fun with your family.

Happy food, fun and conversation!

John Sarrouf