Family dinners can be the most important part of your child’s day. I’m not talking about what your child eats (although that is important too!), but more arguably the conversation. A family dinner is a huge predictor of how well rounded your child will become. The more frequently kids eat dinner with their family boosts children’s developmental state, improves both their mental and physical health, and increases the family bond. All these positives seem like enough reason to make it a priority to sit down once a day as a family. Whatever that might look like for you!
So how do you create a family dinner that works for everyone in your family?! Here are some ideas to keep your kids coming back for more.
Create a happy, safe place.
Foster an environment that makes such great memories, it’s the first thing that pops into your kids heads when they think of ‘home.’ This means no judging, lots of listening, let them be who they are, nurturing place. Turn off the T.V., mute the radio (unless this is part of your meal plan) and put down the phones. Be present, live in the moment and create that feeling that even after they’ve moved out for years, will be hard to forget!
Create fun routines and rituals.
Come up with dinner routines/rituals that remain constant, so that child that thrives with structure knows what’s coming. This is also what that college kid will be missing the most. Our family always starts with a joint effort of setting the table and cooking dinner, if you are home you are doing one or the other (sometimes both!) . As we sit down to eat, a quick prayer or reminder of things we are thankful for signals it’s time to eat. Our engaging conversation last throughout dinner. When everyone is finished eating, it is a family effort to clear the table and do the dishes. This allows all family members to feel like they are a contributor to the whole of the family.
“A strong family has well worn seats at the dinner table.”Unknown
Have engaging conversation.
Make it interesting for everyone in the family. Avoid kids sitting silently and listening to the parents talk about grown-up things. Everyone participates. As we begin eating, we always go around the table and tell our favorite and worst part of our day (thorns/roses). Then, we each get a chance to say something nice/positive about someone else at the table (if someone else already had a positive comment, you choose someone else)! Lastly, we have a new question we answer and talk about each meal. If might be a Would you rather…? If you could…? What would you do if…? If you think you’ll get stuck for questions, brainstorm and write a list of questions (one per strip of paper) and put them in a jar with a fun label on it! Pull out one strip at dinner to get the conversation going! Be sure to check out these pre-thought of family questions to ask at the dinner table.
Be sure to celebrate and have fun!
This just might be the most important. No person wants to have a family dinner time where they feel like they are getting grilled, judged or put on the spot. Yes, it is not proper etiquette for your child to put their elbows on the table. However, is pointing that out more important than listening to what they are saying to you?! Make it a purpose to let the little things slide and focus on the more important things in life…your family! Having that undivided together time with the whole family is something that can never be replaced. I’ve yet to hear someone regret spending too much time with their family. So live it up, celebrate birthdays in a big way and recognize those accomplishments with the individual’s favorite meal. Point is, it’s these little moments that will make the biggest impact!
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