The Importance of the Family Meal

How often does your family eat a meal together? With busy schedules and people running in different directions each day, it can be difficult to carve out that time to slow down, sit down, and share a family meal. If you don’t currently sit down for a family meal as often as you like, or if you do but feel like they are a struggle, Morning Air® contributor Emily Jaminet has some tips for you.

Emily recently stopped by Morning Air to share her perspective on the family meal, and offered some advice for families wondering how they can make it work for them. Emily said:

Make the Time for It
We have many different schedules and activities going on, but I think the most important thing is putting it on your calendar, seeing it as a priority. My husband and I really said this needs to be a priority, we need to get it on the table, get it on the calendar, and make it work.

I really saw this play out in my own life with my parents, who invested in a table that held all of us, plus more. We had a beautiful 18th century table they got at an antique mall, and it’s probably one of our prized possessions as we gather as an extended family. I saw the value of each week coming together, lighting those candles, sharing those stories, and inviting other people to enter in.

Make a Place for It
Where do you eat as a family? For many people, the dining room table is covered in paperwork. It’s where the kids do their homework. So maybe decide this is where we gather as a family, this is our place, and make sure that it’s cleaned off. It’s a priority to be there, it’s not covered with bills and papers.

Make Sure to Include the Whole Family
I told the kids that we’re all going to go and invest in what we eat this week. So we took all six kids, my husband and I. Picking out the groceries, finding out that this kid likes avocado with their Mexican food, and this other child just loves this particular fruit. And we meal plan together. I think sometimes getting that buy-in is really great. Finding out, what do your kids actually like to eat? What are the things that are fun to serve as a family? It’s a great experience.

One of the things I also do to make it easier on me is I have the meal prep figured out for each child. So someone might plate the strawberries, somebody might prep the salad. But they know that there will be at least one chore waiting for them when they get home from Catholic school, so they know that they are going to help out with the family meal, or clear dishes, or load up the dishwasher. But it’s not all just on me to provide that experience for them.

Make Your Time Count By Focusing on What Matters
I actually set a timer and I let the children know the expectation. I say we’re going to sit here for a minimum of 30 minutes. So I say put your phones away to the teenagers, I don’t want to see them at the table. And really remind them what is appropriate.

I really challenge a lot of families to begin with a community of praise. And so we say our prayers and then we also thank God for our blessings. Sometimes we can forget to do that and acknowledge what God is doing and the things that we’re grateful for.

Make it Work For You
Our family meal might be right around 3:00 or 3:30, when everyone’s coming home from school and before they head off to sports and work. Be flexible, start with prayer, and see what works best for your family. A lot of families are so much on the go that they might have the family meal be at breakfast, when everyone can gather. But making this a priority is really essential. Ask the Lord to show you what your family meal looks like, and how can we improve this experience so that the children and the family come together and have these positive interactions.

Listen to the full conversation with Emily Jaminet below:

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Stephanie Foley serves as a Digital Media Producer at Relevant Radio®. She is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, where she studied journalism, and she has worked in Catholic radio for 12 years. Stephanie is a wife, a mother of three boys, and in her free time she enjoys reading, running, and really good coffee. You can find more of Stephanie’s writing at and on the free Relevant Radio mobile app.