Author C.S. Lewis wrote, "... the sun looks down on nothing half so good as a household laughing together over a meal."
Above all else we do in life, maintaining a peaceful home and growing closer to those we love dominate.
The first thing to focus on is the laughter of Lewis's message. It is difficult enough to get everyone to sit down together during a meal for a half hour, so to throw in laughter is an even more difficult task. There is no way to force laughter in the family if you do not know each other well. When everyone is so focused on finishing their fish sticks or slurping up spaghetti, dinner is just dinner.
However, when the table becomes a center for talking and learning about each person's day, the conversation can become warm and friendly and yes, laughter can be heard. Although many of our family dinners turn into a list of chores or an easy argument, there can be more times of love and laughter.
Plan to eat together
The next thing Lewis mentions is the basis for the whole family coming together: a meal. Even if you aren't Julia Child or Martha Stewart, it is still possible to gather everyone together over easy enchiladas or even a pizza. The dinner does not have to be extravagant or exhausting. The important thing is getting everyone is in the same room together engaging in conversation.
Find ways to start positive conversations
We have a tradition at our dinner table where each family member will say his or her high and low for that day. As each family member talks about his or her day, it is easier to learn more about what each person did and what he or she enjoyed or did not enjoy that day. A day without laughter is a day wasted, so try to find time to enjoy the day with your family. Stay away from those topics you know will cause arguments or increase tension. Ask questions and plan together.
Change it up
Another fun tradition is a no dishes dinner, where the entire meal is eaten straight from the plastic tablecloth. This works best with spaghetti or finger foods and is always fun because of the messy faces. Many family members eat with their faces straight off the table, and picture taking is always a necessity. Try the no dishes dinner and see if it's something you and your family would like.
Share the meal, share the cleanup
When it is all over, do the dishes together and work with your children instead of getting up and leaving them to work alone. The family that eats together, laughs together, and works together does in fact grow together more fully.
Don't be afraid for tomorrow night's dinner, even if it seems like everyone has to be in a million places. If you are starting from square one, at least you are starting. The first step is sitting together, and then things can begin from there. You want your children to look back on their childhood days and remember dinner as a positive bonding experience that meant much more than chicken or macaroni and cheese.