Running here. Running there. There’s just no time. You grab take out. You eat smoothies on the run. You can’t remember the last time you sat down together as a family
It’s time to take charge, reset your priorities and bring back the family dinner. Or, maybe your family never had that as a priority. On today’s blog, I am encouraging you to make a commitment to eating together as often as possible.
Are you kidding? - That’s what I hear some of you saying. Between soccer practice, homework, dance lessons, PTA meetings, scouts and work, you have given up on getting everyone at the table at the same time. Well, listen up! There is something special that happens when we gather around the table as a family. Connection. Conversation and a commitment to healthy eating.
You can get a lot of information from sitting face to face with someone. For instance, your teen had a hard day at school. Someone said something that cut them to the core. Or maybe they got a bad grade on their chemistry test. They are feeling pretty down. Chances are when they get home they are going to either head to their room or turn on the TV as they reply, “Fine,” to you when you ask how their day was.
But sitting across from them at the table, you can see their face, read their expression and get a glimpse into how they are really doing. Even if they don’t open up, they know you are there for them. By the way, don’t use dinnertime as a place for hard conversations. Keep the tough conversations for another more private time. Keep dinnertime as a safe place where everyone feels they belong. Making the effort to have a consistent family dinner gives at least one area of consistency to the turbulent teen experience.
If you have toddlers, dinner is not only a time to connect, it is a good time to establish boundaries, practice social skills and continue the learning process. Routines, such as family meals, are like an anchor in today’s stressful world.
Aside from being a place for connection, mealtime it is a place for good conversation. Conversations are hard to come by these days. I am talking about face to face conversations. Learning the art of conversation is a life skill that is often overlooked in today’s world of texts and social media. Learning to wait your turn, using respectful words, showing interest in what others have to say, are all important skills that can be reinforced at the family table.
Learning and humor can also be a fun part of mealtime. As our kids were growing up, my husband would always come to the table with a fun fact he had heard on the radio or read in the newspaper. Other days he would bring a trivia question. The kids were always excited when he announced it was going to be a “money question” that night. While the prize didn’t often go higher than a quarter - or on a high stakes night, a dollar - the kids were always eager to make an attempt at the test of knowledge. And humor? What better place for dad jokes to come out than dinnertime??
Giving kids the opportunity to share what they learned that day, not only gives them a boost of self-confidence, it gives you a chance to check up on what they are learning and what is happening at school.
Whether we like to admit it or not, it is much easier to eat healthier food when we are eating at home. While it does take more planning, homemade food is a much better option than the drive thru or pizza delivery. Not only does it taste better, when we are feeding ourselves and our children well, it is better for our overall health and thinking ability. Try some new things. Be a little adventurous. With inventions like the crockpot and the instant pot, it doesn’t even have to take up much of our time.
A conversation about what constitutes a healthy meal is for another time but keep these things in mind: Colorful meals are more appealing and generally more healthy. Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables and the other half with protein and grains. Try to steer away from sugary drinks like soda or sports drinks. If you want to add to the connection factor, get your kids involved in helping you prepare the meal. Cooking together can be fun - and yet another life skill to pass along.
So in a world where busyness is the norm, I encourage you to make family dinner a priority. I know it can’t happen every night, but try to do it as often as you can. You and your kids will reap some long term benefits from the time spent connecting over a meal.