Reconnect with your family over dinner

After a long day of work, school, errands and after-school activities, dinnertime can be a great opportunity to reconnect as a family. But sometimes, it can be tough to know where to begin. Here are some helpful ideas for getting the conversation started.

Dinnertime is tricky at our house. My husband doesn't get home from work until just after six o'clock, and our kids go to bed at 7:30, so our window for dinnertime is pretty tight. I've gotten in the habit of feeding the kids before their dad gets home just to make things easier.

But lately, I've begun to feel like we're missing out on an important opportunity to reconnect with one another, so I'm on a mission to redefine dinnertime for our family.

Why it's so important to make family mealtime a priority

Charlotte Reznik, Ph.D., child educational psychologist, Associate Clinical Professor of Psychology at UCLA, and author of the Los Angeles Times' best-selling book The Power of Your Child's Imagination: How to Transform Stress and Anxiety into Joy and Success, explains why it's so important we come together for mealtime at the end of the day: "Family dinners can be a loving, predictable routine that make kids feel safe and cherished. It's wonderful to know there is something you can always count on, even when there's so much unpredictability and change in our fast-paced lives."

Dr. Reznick goes on to explain "it's crucial to think about what's key to your family -- what your values are -- and come up with a workable solution."

How to find time for family dinners >>

Our workable solution

Set a realistic goal

For our family, setting a goal of sitting down at the table together four nights a week is doable. For some families, it might be three nights and for others, maybe even every night will work.

Turn off the phones

To make dinnertime the best bonding experience, we turn off our phones. This is a tough thing for me to do, but having it on is simply too distracting for me.

Recap our day

We take turns sharing the best part of our day and since our son, Matthew, isn't talking yet, our daughter shares what she thinks he loved most. Though I can't wait to hear Matthew's thoughts, I love hearing about his day through her eyes.

Express gratitude

Once we share the highlights from our day, we each share one thing for which we're grateful. So far, we've heard about gratitude for such things as pink cupcakes, easy commutes and extra books at bedtime. Hearing what makes each of us grateful is a great way to understand one another even better.

Stay put

The last thing we're doing is staying in our seats until the last of us finishes eating so no one rushes through and runs off too soon.

Although it certainly takes a bit more effort to sit down as a family, we're already seeing just how much of a difference it makes for ours.

I'd love to hear about dinnertime at your house!

Games to play at the dinner table >>

More on dinnertime

Fun themes for family dinnertime
20 Tips on how to simplify dinnertime
5 Stress-less dinnertime tips


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Comments on "Practicing Gratitude: A little dinner conversation"

Sherri April 16, 2012 | 4:00 PM

I love our dinnertime conversations! Even now, with one kid gone, it's my favorite time of the day...we hear things we would have missed if we didn't make the effort.

Briana April 16, 2012 | 11:05 AM

We were just talking about this the other day. My husband has just implemented our first family rule of no cell phones at dinner. Growing up, we ate dinner almost every night together, I want to do that for my kids as well. I also thought about doing the "high and low" of the day. :-)

Rachel April 16, 2012 | 10:21 AM

I LOVE this. With me in school 3 nights a week, family dinner has been tricky so we are down to about 2 nights right now. I love sharing the best of everyone's day. I need to start doing that instead of harping on the anti-vegetable eating that's going on.

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