It’s no secret that today’s families are busier than ever.
However, one appointment should remain a priority on the family calendar. Having dinner together as a family is a very valuable activity and can really help a family stay close and keep communication lines open.
A regular family mealtime has also been shown to increase self-esteem in children, decrease stress, promote better nutrition, and lead to greater mental health and less risky behaviors in teens.
So how can busy families keep dinner time special? Here are a few tips to enhance mealtime:
Make it a priority
It only works if family members are present. Have a conversation as a family and commit to having family dinner regularly. Agree on specific days and times and stick to it. It really helps to add it to the family calendar on your smartphone so you and your spouse will both be reminded in plenty of time to prepare for it. You don’t have to do it every night, but make it a goal to schedule and protect a time at least 1-2 times per week.
Out with the old
Release yourself from unrealistic expectations of what family dinner should be. Use paper plates, plan crockpot meals, and have ready to eat meals in the freezer for especially busy nights. Remember that time together is what matters most, so don’t spend too much of it on preparation and/or clean up.
Make family dinner a ‘no phone/technology zone’. Avoiding distractions shows commitment to spending quality time together as a family and greatly enhances connection. Did you know that TV watching during dinner is associated with being overweight? Unplug for your mental and physical health!
Make it fun
Involve everyone in meal planning and preparation. Take turns choosing the meal and mix it up once in a while. Having dinner on the patio, making a picnic in the living room (with the TV and phones off), or lighting candles can add fun and variety. You can even let whoever picked the meal pick the family activity after. Be creative!
Make it meaningful
The conversations you have around the table are important. Make sure everyone has a voice, engages in respectful listening, and waits his turn. Having everyone share a high and low of the day can encourage healthy conversation. Establish the rule of one conversation, where there is only one conversation at the table at a time. For other conversation starters, visit this helpful website.
You may also want to add a Bible-reading element into your family time. Whether you read one chapter of a book each week or just share a thought with a verse from a reading plan you’re using already, it can be really helpful for your kids to have an opportunity to talk directly to you about the Bible.
Making memories around the dinner table has many physical, cognitive, and emotional benefits for families. So gather the troops, make a plan, and laugh and love around the table as often as you can.
Cindy has been in education for 22 years and is a school administrator and Certified Family Life Educator. She is passionate about early childhood and parent education. She enjoys refinishing furniture, reading, spending time with friends and family, and writing about her spiritual journey.
Cindy is a volunteer contributor.