Ah, family dinners. Spilled milk, sounds of, “I don’t like that” and “WHAT is THAT?!” come from our kids now and again. At these times I wonder if I want to make family dinner a priority! Yet, I also think of the sounds of, “Wow, Mom, this is great?” and, “Can we have this for dinner tomorrow, too?” that we hear from our kids now and again as well. At these times, I smile and am greatful* that we can enjoy a meal together.
All in all, it is good for us to make family dinner a priority. We come together as a family to share at least one meal in our day. We talk, laugh, sometimes argue, and share the events of our day and our future plans with each other. It is a special time we would not have if we ate at different times or in different places within our home.
Does eating together regularly as a family sound appealing? Here are some tips you can use to make family dinner a priority.
Plan when you will make family dinner a priority.
1. Decide to do it.
This is the first step: make the decision to have dinner together as a family.
When you and your spouse are in agreement, it is easier to implement this and make it work. Talk about it and decide how often you will eat together as a family.
2. Make a plan and make it happen.
Without a plan, things often don’t get done. Make a plan of when you will have dinner together as a family.
With your family’s schedule, eating dinner together every day may not be possible. Look instead at what is possible. Would dinner together every Sunday work for everyone? Maybe Monday, Wednesdays, Fridays, and the weekends would work.
If keeping to a regular plan will not work for your family, look at your schedule or calendar one week at a time to plan. What days will work for you to eat together this week?
The younger our kids are, the easier this tends to be, but don’t give up if it seems impossible. Make a plan that will work for your family and then make it happen.
Plan how you will make family dinner a priority. Focus on each other.
3. Turn off the TV.
Yes, turn off the TV. We cannot engage in meaningful conversation easily (or sometimes any conversation at all, for that matter) when the TV is on. It is sometimes loud. The content is at times inappropriate for our kids. It is always distracting. Having the TV on during a meal distracts us from having conversations with each other.
We can live without the TV for 30 minutes or so while we eat together.
If having noise or sound on is important to you or to some of your family members, put on some music. Instrumental music would be less distracting than music with words. You can have it playing in the background while you enjoy your meal together.
4. Put all devices away.
Do you really need to check a feed on your phone during dinner? Do you teenagers really need to text their friends as we eat? No and No. Those things can wait.
We have our phones, tablets, etc. available to us most of the day. We can set them aside during dinner to spend time together as a family.
5. Don’t answer the phone.
Unless it is urgent, don’t answer the phone. We have an answering machine or voicemail we can use, so we can receive a message and call the person back after dinner.
6. Make meaningful conversation.
When you ask your child or spouse a question, try to ask something that requires an answer other than “yes” or “no.” This will help you to have a conversation instead of feeling like you are grilling your family member for information.
If you are unused to having conversations during meals, this may take time to develop. It can be awkward at first, but keep trying. Eventually, conversation will run more smoothly. If you are stumped about what to say or ask, think of the person you want to engage in conversation: what are his or her favorite things to talk about (even if they are not your favorite topics)? Start there.
7. Tell stories.
Are you at a loss of what to say during dinner to engage your entire family n conversation together or do you need help in getting some of your family members to even talk at all? Tell a story. You can tell a story of an experience from your childhood, how you and your spouse met, or stories from the childhoods of your children. Kids love to hear about themselves when they were younger. (Well, usually: as long as it is not embarrassing!) This will engage their interest and they will probably start asking questions to learn more. Retelling stories about our children also show them that we are paying attention to them and that we care about them.
Another idea is for everyone to make up a story together. Someone can think of a story prompt and everyone can take turns adding to the story. You can take turns by going around the table in order, or just have everyone jump in when they have a part to add to the story.
8. Dream Big.
What do you and your family dream about? These can be dreams you have together as a family, dreams you each have for yourselves, or both. Talk about your dreams. Share them with each other.
Not only will this help you each to dream, but it will help you to get to know each other better. When you share your dreams and dream together, you can help each other to dream and you can encourage each other to pursue these dreams.
9. Make plans.
Now that you have talked about your dreams, make plans!
During dinner did you talk about going camping as a family? Pull out the calendar and see when you can schedule a camping trip. Is there a local museum exhibit that looks interesting? Decide when you can go. Have you not had a family date night in a while? Schedule a date and time to have one.
It is a lot of fun to dream, but put your plans on the calendar and make them happen. It will be fun to relive your adventures during future family dinners.
10. Have fun.
We only have so long with our children. One day they will be grown up and move out to be on their own. One day it will just be my husband and me at the dinner table; our large table with two leaf extensions in it will hold just the two of us.
Time is what we have now with our children, so we need to enjoy it and spend this precious time together while we can. We want to have a good time together and make lasting memories we can fondly look back upon. Not only will the memories of family dinners warm our hearts when our kids have moved out, but the memories our kids have will influence how they want their own families’ dinners to be.
When will you have your next family dinner together?
Do you want some ideas for meal planning or cooking with children? Check out these posts for help and ideas:
*greatful: Yes, I do use this spelling of greatful on purpose. When I am greatful for something, it is because it is great, not because it is grate. Thus, I spell greatful this way instead of spelling it this way: grateful.