We all know that there are countless reasons why family dinner is so important to the health of your family relationships. The problem is, life gets in the way. Soccer practices, recitals, rehearsals, meetings, clubs, and spiritual engagements can clog our calendars in a heartbeat. Rather than focus on the actual food, I wanted to share with you the ways you can focus on the importance of family dinner and bringing back the tradition. Hopefully, these suggestions can help you manage your family a little bit easier.
Make it the Priority
First, I designated a day specifically for a family dinner and made sure I did not plan anything else in that slot. Trust me when I say, this was one of the hardest parts of planning. Some people can plan the ever-famous Sunday dinner, and that is wonderful if it works for you. Our family quickly learned that Thursday evenings were the best day for having a family meal. It was the one day we could have the most control over scheduling, and it became easier to tell people “sorry, I already have plans on that day.” No one has to know what the plans are and I often had to repeat to myself that it was a non-negotiable gathering. There was push back with my kids, but they quickly figured out that Mom meant business and they conceded.
Make it Enjoyable
While the family dinner is a great time for ensuring healthy eating, we took the attitude of making it easy. It might be a soup and salad night or hot dogs and french fries. We were busy all week, and I sure didn’t want to slave over the stove for my kids to complain about whatever I was cooking. By taking a relaxed attitude about what we ate, we found ways to eat healthy without a lot of work. The other important aspect was I engaged my children with the menu selection. If one wanted hot dogs, they could make them. Another could toss together a salad, and another could work on a dessert. Being able to put a meal together nipped any arguments against a family dinner in the bud. They got excited about the meal and often would plan what they wanted over the weekend.
Make Conversation Easy
Have we learned yet that kids hate the question “how was school today?”. It is time to reframe it and tap into what it is they enjoy and allow conversation organically. I have an artistic daughter, and I would ask what projects she was working on that week. Another child was a musician, and I would ask what new music she was learning. These conversations allowed them to feel supported, share their passion, and inevitably lead to discussions about school all on their own. Another thing I learned, and I learned this from my childhood, the dinner table is not the time to discuss heavy topics like politics or significant news events. Our kids are slammed with information all day long; the light conversation does the digestion good!
These are my three rules, and I would love to hear if you have any tips that have worked for you. It would be great if all families would make time for the family dinner.