Between late-night meetings, church activities, music lessons, sports practices and more, it is amazing we are able to find any time to accomplish our to-do lists. Even though we feel like we can't get it all done, we need to set things aside and make time for our family, especially at dinnertime.
Growing up, family dinner was a priority in my home. Dinner was the time we learned the most about our family and the events that happened throughout the day. I remember during some meals we would laugh throughout dinner. During others, arguments would break out. Our family dinners weren't always perfect, but we could expect them, and we were expected to be there no matter how much homework or what friends we wanted to visit.
Sept. 25 is Family Day with a focus on eating dinner together as a family. Family dinner not only helps family members know what is going on in each other's lives; studies show that children who regularly eat dinner with their families are less likely to participate in drugs, alcohol and other unwise activities.
But how do you make dinner all about family? Here are five tips for making family dinner a regular occurrence in your home.
1. No gadgets at the table
In my home, we had a rule: no phones at the table. If the phone rang or we received a text message, you could not respond until dinner was finished. Dinnertime needs to be focused on the family. Your family members will survive if they are unplugged from the world for 30 minutes or an hour each day. Plus, putting away any distractions during dinner allows you to concentrate on your family members and discover their challenges, needs and wants.
2. Don't drill your children for information
Don't make dinner seem like a job interview. Ask a few questions to get a conversation started and then let the conversation flow. When you try to dictate family dinner like an interview, your children will dread coming. Let them share the information they want about their day. Don't try to force it out of them.
If your family has a hard time starting or maintaining a conversation, create a conversation jar filled with slips of paper containing questions. Let each family member choose a question and answer it. Sometimes, you will only make it through one or two questions before you realize everyone is finished eating.
3. Don't expect a perfect setting
Like I mentioned before, our family dinners weren't always perfect, and yours won't be, either. If you had a tension-filled dinner, don't be discouraged and frustrated. It will happen. Move forward because tomorrow is a new day.
4. Make family dinner a priority and be consistent
Teach your children that family dinner needs to be a priority in their lives. Life becomes busy, especially as your children enter their teenage years. Make it a rule in your home that unless your children are working or at another high-priority activity, they need to be home for dinner. Plan dinner at the same time each evening, but be willing to be flexible if your family has a few disruptions. Also, be consistent. Don't have family dinner one night a week and then try to do it every night the following week. If you don't make it a consistent activity, your family will never take it seriously and apply it to their life.
5. Make dinner fun
You can make dinner a fun and exciting time for your family. Plan theme nights or let each family member choose the meal throughout the week. When your family has a say in what goes on during dinnertime, they will be more willing and excited to come.
Dinnertime is about family. It is about spending time together and building a strong bond between one another. Don't waste this valuable time together by being too busy. Take time for your family, they are the most important thing in your life.