Are you struggling to reconnect with your family? Wondering how to improve the family dinner hour and establish some good habits? Here are five ways to begin tonight!
I feel so strongly about the importance of the family dinner hour that I included a whole section on it in The Homestead Family chapter of my book, The Do It Yourself Homestead. For a preview of that chapter, feel free to email me through the site and I’ll get you set up. I may even send along a little gift. To learn more about the book, click below:
What Does Family Dinner Together Mean?
When we talk about eating dinner together, please know that it doesn’t have to be dinner that we’re eating, and we don’t have to all be together. Some families have grown-ups who work night shifts and are only available for lunch or breakfast. Some families are missing members because of long-term military deployment or other work that consistently takes them away from home. Regardless of the whys and who’s, let’s not enter this discussion on the importance of preparing and eating meals together by assuming that the dialog isn’t relevant because we can’t eat “dinner as a family.” The word can’t is not one that a homesteader really has the luxury of using. We can do just about anything; we are that awesome.
Family Dinner is Needed
In our modern times, eating dinner together has actually become the focus of study groups that analyze the positive effects it can have on a child’s relationship with food, and even their vocabulary. Eating as a family also improves table manners and conversation.
Go ahead and do an Internet search of the phrase “Family Dinner Together” and look at everything that comes up. Outside of a study, as families, we have our own experience that tells us that eating dinner together is rewarding and brings us closer together. Pantry Paratus shares the reasons they eat dinner together as a family is this great post.
But, maybe, we don’t usually have a great experience at dinner time. If the joyous dinner hour has NOT been part of your family life, here are five ideas for getting to the table together.
Commit to eat dinner together as many days as you reasonably can. My suggestion is all seven days of the week, but just do your best.
If there are activities that can reasonably be assigned to another time of day than the dinner hour, then reassign them. If you need to move dinner time around in the evening to accommodate a necessary activity, be willing to be flexible. Make it work as consistently as you can and family members will see that it’s important, eventually making it a habit to be home for dinner.
Turn off the TV, radio, (although quiet music in the background can be nice) and all mobile devices during dinner. Even the grown-ups need to leave their phones in their rooms and be present at the table. Whatever it is, whoever is trying to reach you, you’ll get back to it in an hour.
We can’t expect our children to do what we’re not willing to do ourselves. If the dinner hour is important, prove it.
#3 Be Grateful
Say a prayer over the food, expressing thanks and asking for the meal to be cleansed of unworthy elements and to provide nourishment to your bodies. If you’re not a prayerful family, have everyone holler out at least one thing they’re thankful for before you eat.
Beginning the meal with positive energy, in whatever way is appropriate for your family, will set the tone and make everything about this time spent together more beneficial. Sitting down to a full meal is not a blessing of which every family in the world gets to partake. Perhaps there will be less waste and fewer complaints if we wire our brains for gratitude the moment we sit down to fill our bellies.
We’ve all seen the pictures of a group of friends sitting around a table and, instead of talking to each other, they’re glued to their devices—they may even be texting each other! As a nation, we’re slowly losing the ability to converse with each other face to face. If you’ve unplugged and then sit staring stupidly at each other the whole meal because you can’t remember how to have a normal conversation, don’t give up!
Family conversations can be fun, and to help you as you begin there are several conversation-starter games for sale. The children’s toy company Melissa and Doug has a game called the “Family Dinner Box of Questions”, but you might want to try several to see which your family enjoys most. You can also just fill a canning jar full of your own ideas scribbled out on slips of paper and place them inside for each family member to draw out and read. Let everyone participate and share ideas, right down to the toddler.
The point is to pose questions, introduce topics of general interest and simply engage each other in conversation. You live together and share the genetic makeup of thousands of years of family history; you have way more in common than you think.
#5 Be Real
Tackle hard topics. Not all of our dinner hour conversations will be light, but growing closer as a family is what this time is for. Don’t shy away from hard questions or problems.
Sometimes you’ll be struggling through a particularly dark or difficult time as a family. Your conversation will be limited to brief comments in between tears. Other times, a tricky moral or ethical question will be posed by a child struggling at school. Or, an issue between siblings will rear its head at the table.
Stay seated, when it’s appropriate, and work through the issue together. It’s true that some conversations should take place in private, between parent and a child. However, other discussions are beneficial for all to hear. Family means that, even when we’re flailing or failing, we’re doing it together. If you’re a praying family, pray together for the child who is struggling; there’s nothing quite like hearing someone you love lift up your name in a prayer of supplication.
For our last tip, which includes a sombrero, you’ll need to read the book, The Do It Yourself Homestead. Was that a teaser? Why, yes it was. I feel so strongly about making our homestead families a success that I dedicated a whole chapter of my book to strengthening the homestead family. If you can’t afford the book right now, but want to read that last tip, just contact me and we can chat. I may even have a little coupon for you for the e-version of The Do It Yourself Homestead. I’m full of surprises.
You CAN Do Family Dinner
I promise that with persistence and commitment, you can create a family dinner hour in that everyone comes to rely on. It will never be perfect. Try candlelight and flowers and manners because they all have value. And be sure to take some time to plan your menus together. You can use these 10 tips for better meal planning from Homespun Seasonal Living to help with that. And
Just don’t expect everything to go perfectly. The toddler will put her bowl on her head, the teenager will sulk about turning of his phone and someone will get stuck in traffic. It’s all good. Together you’re establishing patterns, and patterns make habits. And habits build strengths.
You’re not raising kids; you’re raising adults and with healthy patterns come the strength to be the people we mean to be.
We’re not just serving meatballs tonight. Something else entirely is happening every night during the family dinner hour.
Cover graphic gratefully attributed to Graphics Fairy.