As a kid I remember having dinner together as a family almost every single night growing up. I went through phases that I loved it and others that I didn’t like it so much (usually because it prevented me from doing things with my friends if they were too close to dinner time). As I got older and friends came over for dinner and I was allowed over to friend’s houses around dinner time, I began to understand the importance of it. Not all of my friends had family dinner every night, some didn’t have it at all. I understood why it was such a big deal when my friends came over and saw it wasn’t just a Sunday night thing.
Family dinner is now a fond memory that has become a staple of my own family. Growing up that’s when we talked, when I told my family about my day and they shared theirs. We laughed, bonded, and connected. We weren’t allowed to watch television and as much as my brother hated that part, I now understand what the point of family dinner was. I often wonder how many families continue the family dinner tradition. With the glorification of busy, the hectic schedules families juggle, and technology consuming the amount of people’s attention it does makes me wonder if people are still setting time aside to regularly sit at the table and converse with their loved ones.
Those nights spent gathered around the table sharing a meal will later become memories. In the moment they are valuable moments that you’re investing in your family. It’s time to connect with your children, know what their day was like, celebrate hard work, identify with them, give them a place to talk out their problems and come up with a solution, share something you’re grateful for, talk about the best part of the day, and get an assessment of how you’re kids are doing in school. I don’t mean just grades and homework but with other kids, their teachers, and their interactions.
Here are some suggestions for a great family dinner routine:
- Incorporate it into your schedule- Set a time when everyone can be there. Maybe it’s not the same exact time every day of the week, the important thing is that everyone is at the table.
- Make preparation a family event- Have everyone help with dinner in the capacity that they’re able. Have younger kids set the table and older kids help in the kitchen, let them see mom and dad working together to bring the meal together. Let everyone pick a dish for the week. Maybe make it a family meeting once a week to find new dishes to try. This is a great bonding experience and it doesn’t have to start at the table.
- No electronic devices allowed!– Turn off the television, put all phones on silent or vibrate in another room, and leave tablets, laptops, and gaming devices with the phones.
- Get the conversation going- Have everyone share their low and their high of the day. The low can be insight to a bigger problem or it can be an opportunity to come up with an approach that can help solve a reoccurring issue. Ending each turn with their high leaves them with the feeling the positive experience brings them.
- Don’t save it for thanksgiving- Of course we sit at a table full of food surrounded by our family on Thanksgiving and mention one thing we’re thankful for. Foster the practice of gratitude by sharing something you’re grateful for over dinner. List the reasons why and what it means to you.
- Make it fun!- Browse Pinterest for family games that can be played at dinner time. If you have young kids, there are even tablecloths online that are a lot of fun to color or have a scavenger hunt! If you don’t find any you like, make custom placemats this can be cheap and fun! Why not have a picnic for dinner and play with the kids at the park afterward or play a family game of catch?
- Get everyone involved in the cleanup- Come up with a routine that works for your family for the clean up process. Maybe everyone clears their place at the table and everyone has a different job in the kitchen that changes each night- someone washes dishes or loads the dishwasher, someone else cleans up the table, someone takes out the trash.
Does your family have dinner together regularly? What tips can you share to make the most of family dinner? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, feel free to share your story in the comments! If you have an idea for a family or parenting related topic you’d like to see, feel free to leave a suggestion in the comments!
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