Bring the Family Dinner Back
What ever happened to the family dinner? I know it still occurs in America, but the invention of the television seemed to put family dinner on the endangered species list. Eating dinner in the family room while watching television took place of sitting around a table in the kitchen or dining room and connecting with family. It’s time to take the focus away from the TV and bring it back to your family at dinner time.
I grew up in a household that did not eat dinner at the family table. The dining room was reserved for Christmas, Thanksgiving or other holidays. Our dinner time was spent in the family room watching TV and eating from TV tables. There were many hours of missed opportunities to better connect with my sister and parents.
After getting married, my wife and I continued the same tradition. If we didn’t go out to eat, one of us would cook and we would both move into the family room and watch a show while we ate dinner. I can’t even tell you which show was so important for us to watch.
Luckily my wife is a smarter person than me and when our daughter was born, we started making a shift to eating as a family at the kitchen table. This was not easy for me. The television was a part of my family. How could I leave the TV out of our dinner?
10 years and another child later, I can say it was one of the best decisions we ever made. Dinner time, with my family, is time for us to reconnect from our busy days. Most evenings can be “divide and conquer” with one child working with one parent, but at dinner time, we’re all together.
thefamilydinnerproject.org is a good blog to understand the benefits of having a family dinner. Family dinners increase children’s vocabulary, provides them with better servings of food and makes them less likely to fall into bad habits like binge drinking, smoking, etc.
Tips for implementing a family dinner.
Set a standard dinner time.
By setting a standard time for dinner, you start making it a priority. Everyone knows dinner will be ready and on the table by a certain time. They can plan to be available for dinner.
6:30 works pretty well in our household. It gives the kids some time to play or do homework after getting home from school/daycare. My wife and I can get home between 5:30 and 6:00 and have dinner prepared. We’re all finished and have the dishes cleaned by 7:30 allowing free time for all of us until bed time.
Make it Fun for the Kids
You can play some games at dinner time, eat outside or just have fun conversations. We find ourselves laughing a lot during dinner. Our conversations are based around each others days and for some reason there are plenty of laughs.
Down South, we’re lucky to be able to eat outside for 8 months out of the year if we choose. It’s an opportunity to enjoy nature and listen to the birds. Usually our neighbors will appear in the yard and after dinner, the kids can go and play with them for a while.
Be Disciplined and Stick With It
Life gets crazy as kids get older. Commitments for kids get in the way of family time. It’s important to stick with a family dinner and make it happen in spite of the commitments. You may need to be flexible on times and places, but proper planning and discipline can make it a priority.
As your child develops from toddler to child to tween to teen, family involvement will become more important. That means family dinner time needs to be a high priority. Make it work and you and your family will see the benefits.
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