Does your family sit down to the dinner table each night? Several nights a week? Never?
Family dinners are one of the most important factors to a kid's success in school and in life (Time Magazine even says so!). However, if you arent used to sitting down to the dinner table each night, that can be a daunting prospect. Here are a few tips to ease the stress and increase the fun.
1. Aim for at least 4-5 family dinners a week.
Even if you are busy with work and sports practices, find a way for everyone to eat at the table more often than not. You may have to adjust your diner time (when I was growing up, my brother had football practice in the evenings, so we ate dinner at 4 and then had a snack after practice). Be willing to do things a little differently to make it work.
2. Conversation is key.
Depending on the age of your kids, this may be tougher than getting everyone to the table. It is vital that families communicate with each other. This is the perfect opportunity to ask how things are at school, how friends are doing and getting a recap of the day.
3. Tell me three.
Have everyone at the table share three things about their day. This prevents the “How was your day?” “Fine.” conversation. Even toddlers can tell what they did over the day with a little prompting. If you have older kids (read: teens), remember not to judge what they say. If they say something that needs to be discussed further, do it later. If you question it at the table, they may see it as a challenge or harassment and then shut down.
4. Tell a joke.
Another way to encourage conversation is to tell a joke. It doesn't have to be great (my seven year old insists on telling made up knock knock jokes), but if it even gets a groan, that's ok. If you have younger kids, help them out by looking up and then teaching them a joke that they can tell at the table.
5. Everyone's stuck with cleanup duty.
I hate cleaning up after dinner. It's one of those tasks that ranks up there with hand washing dishes. To make this task less painful, we assign everyone a job to make it go quicker and you can do the same. Toddlers can clear silverwear and throw napkins away. Older kids can load the dishwasher and clean counters. In fact, dads can even do this!
Family dinners are an important way for familes to slow down and reconnect in a crazy, too fast, technologically overloaded world. Be willing to find ways to make the family dinner work for you.
What challenges do you face when trying to get everyone to the table? What tricks work for you?
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