Family Talk Jar

Families Eating Together


So, the kids are back to school, and you want to establish a ‘set’ routine for the family.  As you set up the family ‘schedule’ you may want to ask yourself if you have made time for your family to eat together.  Families that eat together, seem to stay together.  Keeping it together in our fast paced world is a skill, not something that happens by chance.  Research conducted by Gallup, Syracuse, & Oliveri from Ohio State University is showing that although it may seem a simple and old-fashion activity, taking time out for family meals has a lot of hidden benefits.  Both nutritionists and family life educators tell us that when a family eats together more than 4 times a week they reap the following advantages:

  • Families eat more nutritious meals and know basic cooking skills.
  • Learn social skills and table manners.
  • Have a sense of community and family values.
  • Less likely to smoke, use drugs or alcohol.
  • Do better in school.
  • Lower rate of teen pregnancy.
  • Values family traditions.

Research does warn that if meals are eaten with the television on many of these benefits are lost and an increase in obesity is common.  So look closer at your family schedules and make meal time a priority.  Take time to listen to family member’s thoughts and feelings, not just what happened during the day.  Tune out the television, radio, cell phones and other distractions and tune into each other.  Get every family member involved in family meals by having them help plan meals, do the food shopping, set the table, chop the vegetables or do the dishes. 


A recent study conducted by specialists at University of Nebraska-Lincoln focused on the common elements for creating strong families. Their findings confirm that mealtimes together can be especially good, and families that eat together a lot have countless opportunities to develop positive emotional bonds with each other. Good things happen when we break bread together.


A common mistake that many families make is to use mealtimes as the means for correction (“Why didn’t you do better on that math test?”), or nagging (“When are you going to clean your room?”). Children can also get in the habit of using this time to complain (“Everyone else gets to stay up late, why can’t I?”). Setting mealtime ground rules can help. Discipline, complaining, fighting and arguing should not be a part of family meals. Instead, another time should be set aside to resolve these issues. Done the right way, family mealtime can be an enjoyable time for the family to be together.


One activity which helps promote positive discussion at the dinner table is to use the “Family Talk Jar”. Use a jar or container and place strips of paper with a single question on each one. Have each person take a turn and choose one question and tell the family their response. Examples of a few questions are: What was you favorite camping trip; Tell about the first time you met your spouse; If you had a million dollars, what would you do with it?


On the outside of the “Family Talk Jar” attach the following poem written by Shauna Seely of Utah County.


Family Talk Jar


Here is a jar that’s full of fun,

 Questions to ask a daughter or son.

Or mom and dads stories of when they were small,

Taking time out, you’ll have a ball.

Around the table at dinner or lunch

Pull out a question or pull out a bunch.

Answer the question as best as you can,

Getting you talking, that is the plan.

 Family memories, goals and dreams,

Preserving the love, takes time it seems.

And for the adults the papers are blue,

For everyone else, all colors will do. 

So everyday, each take a turn,

Sharing your stories and what you did learn.

Complete list of Talk Jar Questions 

If you think you are too busy to eat together as a family, think again, there are too many reasons not to.