Valentine’s Day is coming soon, and with it, the annual demands that we lavish love on our family and friends in numerous ways. School-aged kids will pass out Valentine’s cards and trinkets; couples will scramble for the perfect dinner reservations. For 24 hours, everyone will be focused on love — and then what?
We’re no Valentine grouches — we love a good excuse to show that we care! But all that pressure on one day of the year can obscure the simple truth that love is something we can show through our actions every single day. It doesn’t take cards, flowers, hearts or candy; much like family dinner itself, real love is often just about showing up and being present. So this month, we’re offering some inspiration to help you bring the love to your dinner table every day.
Sure, you think, as you wipe applesauce off the wall, try to corral a wandering toddler, placate a picky eater or deal with a tenacious teen who acts like they’d rather be anywhere in the world than at your dinner table. But even as you encounter various challenges with family dinners that will grow and change as surely as the people sitting around the table, remember that it’s always a work in progress with perfectly imperfect results. If you need a little “been-there-done-that” bucking up, check out one of these articles from seasoned family dinner champions at different stages of the journey:
One often-overlooked benefit of a family dinner routine is that it’s a perfect opportunity to help kids of all ages build necessary life skills that will help them to become healthy, independent adults. While it can be hard to love letting kids help in the kitchen when they leave a totally unlovable mess behind, the truth is that sharing responsibilities for dinner prep and clean-up not only makes kids more competent in the long run, but can also improve your bond.
Makayla Hendricks, a teen representative of FCCLA, says “I notice a huge difference in my relationship with my mom when we focus on eating dinner together. It can be hard, but I promise if you put forth the effort and help prepare and clean up your meals that your relationships with your family members will strengthen.”
Speaking of FCCLA, our partners there are gearing up for a special week of recognition this month. Join us in celebrating FCCLA Week February 7-13, 2016! To learn more, check out https://fcclainc.org/news–media/fccla-week.php.
Okay, you might not need flowers, candy or a fancy occasion to show that you love someone, but Valentine’s Day does provide a good excuse to shake things up and make your family dinner extra-special! Going outside the box — without getting too complicated or adding too much stress to your plate — can also be a way to fall back in love with dinner itself, especially if you’re starting to feel like your dinnertime routine is stuck in a rut.
If you’d like to focus on romance with just you and your partner, try creating an At-Home Restaurant.
To make dinner extra-special with older kids and teens, why not try a round of Iron Chef for the whole family?
With younger kids, have them help you design a special dinner around a specific color or flavor (why not red for Valentine’s Day?).
The Family Dinner Project is hitting the road hard in February! On our plate: Community Dinner events with three fantastic partner organizations. We’ll be loving dinnertime at Sanctuary for Families in New York City, The Boys and Girls Club of Newark, NJ and with Blue Star Families at Joint Base Lewis McChord in DuPont, Washington.
Find out more about hosting a TFDP Community Dinner.
Valentine’s Day isn’t the only celebration on the calendar this month. Spice up your family dinner for Chinese New Year with these Origami Dumplings!
As long as we’re talking about feelings, why not let your inner performer shine through with an acting game that’s all about emotions?
This month, focus on improving connection with your spouse or partner. Get past the one-word answers and dead ends with these new ways to open up a conversation.