In this hustle and bustle world, it often feels like our family time is slipping through the cracks of our busy schedules. Work demands, school, and extracurricular activities often leave us feeling pulled in multiple directions with little time for quality conversations with our spouses or children.
One way to increase quality time with the family is to make family dinner a priority.
When children are young, sitting down for a family meal takes effort, but it’s relatively easy. As the family grows older and gets more active, prioritizing dinner together can seem almost impossible.
Here are some tips for making family dinner a priority for your family.
Set the Scene
A dedicated dining space stresses that family meals are important to you. Your space can be a separate dining room or an area of your kitchen. The important thing about your dedicated space is that it’s functional for your family.
Functionality includes an appropriately sized dining table. You want a table large enough to accommodate your family, and one that will accommodate any members added to the family as the children grow into adulthood.
No matter what size or style of dining table you have, set the table for your dinners. This is an ideal way to allow young children to be involved with dinner from start to finish.
It doesn’t have to be a formal table setting with a fork for each dish and cloth napkins, but taking the time to set the table with whatever dinnerware you want to use for the evening will help to set the mood and reinforce the idea that family dinner is important.
Many times parents make the mistake of thinking that children are too young to participate in the planning or preparations for dinner. This is simply not the case. Children can help tremendously, and they often enjoy being included.
Younger children can be taught to set the table, wash fruits and vegetables, stir ingredients into a recipe, or even measure and add ingredients with supervision.
Slightly older children can help stir foods on the stove, slice or dice fruits and vegetables, and assemble and mix the ingredients for simple recipes. Pre-teen and teenage children can cook a variety of recipes from start to finish with little to no supervision.
Involving the children in planning and preparing the meal helps to eliminate issues like picky eating. Allowing children to assist with meal planning, grocery shopping, and actually preparing the food helps them to realize the effort that goes into family dinner.
As they get more involved with all that is required to get dinner on the table for everyone, they will likely appreciate mealtime with the family more.
Keep It Simple
Family dinner doesn’t have to be an extravagant affair. Simple meals that are nutritious and filling will be appreciated as much as, if not more than, an elaborate five course meal.
Obviously, simple meals are easier to plan and execute on a regular Tuesday night after work, or on Thursday before the weekly soccer game.
Simple doesn’t mean boring. Simple meals can be flavorful and fun, but they typically don’t require a huge time commitment. Using tools like crockpots and InstaPots help you to keep your meals simple without sacrificing flavor or requiring hours of prep work.
Make ahead meals are another way to simplify family meal time. Make ahead meals are particularly helpful for those nights when you have activities on your schedule.
Take It To Go
As children get older, many of them have activities that keep the family busy. Fitting a family meal time into the schedule with soccer practice, piano recitals, and martial arts classes may seem impossible. Thinking creatively will help you maintain your family time while still getting to practices or performances.
When you’re committed to the family meal, you’ll find that occasionally that meal happens somewhere other than in your dining room. If your child has basketball practice at 6:30, and there’s no time to prepare and eat dinner, consider a take-out picnic at the gym.
The point is eating with your family, conversing, and bonding with each other, not sitting at a perfectly appointed table with linens and traditional place settings.
With the busy schedule of everyday life, family dinners sometimes seem nearly impossible to manage. BUT, eating together as a family helps to forge those bonds that sustain relationships through life’s unpredictable twists and turns.
Involving the entire family in planning and preparing for dinner reinforces the importance of the time while making memories together.
Simple meals, take-out picnics, or an evening in a restaurant are some of the options for making dinner time a memorable experience that becomes a lifelong habit.
Whether you can sit together around the table every night or only once a week, your family dinner time can create memories and bonds that last a lifetime.