The ‘family dinner’ has become something of a lost art over the years. But with the International Day of Families coming up this Sunday, May 15, now is the perfect time to find out exactly how (and why) to have better family dinners.

Why are family dinners important?

In a lot of houses, dinner around the TV is more of a regular occurrence than dinner around the dining table. But experts say that regular family dinners can help your kids in more ways than you might think.

In an interview for Harvard EdCast, family therapist Anne Fishel explained that while the number of families who eat dinner together regularly has gone down, the need for family dinners is ever-present.

“The mental health benefits are just incredible,” says Anne. “Regular family dinners are associated with lower rates of depression, and anxiety, and substance abuse, and eating disorders, and tobacco use, and early teenage pregnancy, and higher rates of resilience and higher self-esteem.”

But wait – there’s more. Others say that having a place where children can talk openly with their parents and siblings on a regular basis could help them resolve friendship issues and even help prevent bullying situations before they get too serious.

What to cook?

It’s getting cold, so for family dinner, we’re looking for meals that will warm us up but require minimal effort – slow cookers offer exactly that!

Anyone who has a slow cooker will tell you how great they are. The ‘dump and go’ approach to cooking means you can have dinner cooking away at home while you go to work or run errands, allowing you to return to a fully cooked meal.

These five slow-cooker recipes will bring the winter warmth.

Jambalaya

Originally a French dish which has been adapted by locals in Louisiana, USA, jambalaya is a budget-friendly way to feed a crowd (or your family, with leftovers). It is loaded with flavour thanks to the array of spices this recipe by Budget Bytes calls for, and can feature just about any protein you like, be it chicken, seafood or beef!

Make it here

Creamy basil chicken

Ditch the pre-cooked chicken in favour of this creamy, flavourful one by The Recipe Rebel! It features garlic, diced tomatoes and both dried and fresh basil to really pack in the Italian-inspired flavour, and can be served over pasta, rice or with some roast veggies or a crisp salad on the side.

Make it here

Taco pasta

A combination of two of our favourite foods, prepared in a matter of hours without us having to lift a finger? We’re sold. This slow cooker taco pasta by Kristine’s Kitchen features cheese, ground beef, pasta and heaps of hidden veggies, meaning the kids are bound to love it, too.

Make it here

Butter chicken

This takeaway favourite is so easy to make at home with the help of your slow cooker. Savoury, creamy and packed with hidden veggies, this butter chicken recipe by Well Plated ticks all the boxes. Once served, take a fluffy piece of naan bread and use it to scoop up the remaining sauce from inside your slow cooker – we won’t tell anyone!

Make it here

Beef cheeks in red wine

Yes, you would certainly find this meal on the menu at a fancy restaurant, but with this simple recipe by Well Nourished, you can enjoy the deliciousness at home, too! The fluffy garlic mash and steamed greens on the side make it even better. Join the waitlist to gain access to this delicious recipe (and so many more!).

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What to talk about?

Now you know why you should have family dinners. Next time, you can wrangle the troops for a family dinner in your household, make sure you’re armed with plenty of talking points to really get the conversation going.

We’ve listed the top 25 questions you can ask your family around the table, but you can easily come up with your own ones to spark a good chat.

Just keep them open-ended – they shouldn’t be able to be answered with a simple ‘yes’, ‘no’ or ‘okay’ – and really listen to what your children have to say in return.

  1. Tell me one really exciting thing that happened to you today?
  2. Tell me one annoying thing that happened to you today?
  3. What did you find interesting today?
  4. What is one thing you could have done better today?
  5. What is one thing you did today that you are proud of?
  6. What are you most looking forward to this week?
  7. What are you least looking forward to this week?
  8. If you could do anything in the world, what would you do this weekend?
  9. Who is your favourite person in your class this year? Why?
  10. How is this year at school different from last year?
  11. What is something you want to learn how to do? Why?
  12. What is something you can do that you could teach someone else?
  13. What is one thing you did to help someone else today?
  14. Who do you think has taught you the most in your life? What are some things they have taught you?
  15. What is your favourite family tradition?
  16. What is a weird habit that you have?
  17. If you could have one dream come true, what would it be?
  18. Where is the most interesting place you have ever been?
  19. What is your favourite thing to do by yourself?
  20. What was the last thing that made you laugh?
  21. What was the last thing that made you cry?
  22. If you could pick your own name, what would it be?
  23. What is your favourite memory so far?
  24. What is the nicest thing a friend has ever done for you?
  25. Who is your best friend and why?