Research points to the importance of sharing meals as a family. Knowing it’s important doesn’t make it any easier to convene as a family at dinner time. Learn how to let go of the pressure and make family dinner fun.
Depending on what you read, you could end up convinced that family meals can single-handedly rescue your children from a future of bad grades and poor decisions. While eating together seems like a magical solution to all your parenting problems, most parents know it’s more complicated than that.
With realistic expectations in mind, learn how to make family dinner fun. Eating together might not solve all of your problems, but it will bring your family closer.
Be reasonable about timing
Sitting down for dinner as a family isn’t as simple as it sounds. Over-scheduled kids and busy parents don’t always intersect at mealtime. Instead of trying to cram a family meal into every day’s schedule, try making plans to eat together three or four times a week. Avoid frequently eating in the car or at restaurants. If you can’t get together for a bare minimum amount of meals, it might be time to rethink your evening activities.
Let the music play
Eating in front of the TV at family mealtime is a no-no. No one’s going to talk if everyone is glued to the evening news or cartoons. This doesn’t mean you have to avoid all media entirely. Try taking turns letting a member of the family play DJ at each family dinner. When it’s your turn, play music that means something to you. Share your memories of the songs with your family. Work in a lesson by playing a classical piece once in a while. Young children delight in learning about the instruments that make up an orchestra.
If you’re exhausted by the time dinner is ready, you might not be the best company over a family meal. Try organizing at least one super simple meal a week. This can mean picking up take-out on the way home, ordering a pizza or re-heating leftovers. The goal is to get dinner on the table as effortlessly as possible so your efforts can go into connecting and socializing with your family. If your kids are old enough to help out, make sure you involve them in preparing for dinner and clearing the table afterwards. It’s never too early to foster responsibility regarding family chores.
Play the question game
Asking your kids how the day at school went probably won’t get you much of a response. If you’re interested in more than monosyllabic replies, take control of the conversation, but remember to share as much as your children do. Dinner shouldn’t be an interrogation. Talk about your day, ask leading questions and encourage your children to ask questions too. If no one wants to talk about the day, steer the conversation to something neutral and fun, like an upcoming movie or a TV show you all enjoy.
More on family time
Practicing gratitude: A little dinner conversation
6 Ways to maximize your family’s time together
Help your family reconnect