It was a rare occasion to have family dinnertime together before the Pandemic hit. In many ways, the past year forced us as a family to slow down to a pace that felt impossible a year ago.
I can remember last March staring at the large wall calendar that hangs in my kitchen. One by one, we’d crossed out…
- Basketball practices
- Soccer games
- Work events
And all that was left was staying home. Now upon looking back, spending time at home with our family was AMAZING!
Why Does Family Dinnertime Matter?
It’s essential for the well-being of the entire family to eat meals together as a family. Your whole family will be healthier, happier, and more connected. Here are a few reasons to eat together as a family.
#1 Language Developmental Boost
Families tend to have more discussions when they eat together. Children learn new words and higher-level themes as a result of these talks, especially since there are typically several age levels.
#2 More Confidence
Kids who talk to their parents more frequently tend to also feel more confident in themselves. When kids are confident, they tend to perform better in school.
#3 Physical Health
When you cook at home, the food will be considerably healthier. Most restaurants (even home-based ones) and packaged meals contain a lot of salt, fat, and sugar in what they cook.
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It’s the holy grail of cuisine to get people addicted to the food so that they keep coming back. The main reason meals taste so delicious when you eat out is because of the fat, salt, and sugar combination, which is true even if you’re eating vegetables in most cases.
I also feel that you as a parent are more apt to notice symptoms of illness sooner when having dinner together. Your family may be super busy, and this is the only time you are actually sitting down face to face with one another each day.
#4 Improved Mental Health
One of the reasons families don’t eat dinner together is because they have too many activities. There is little joy in being overscheduled for both parents and kids.
It’s more difficult than ever to keep track of everything, and the pressure on parents to attend all activities plus the stress on kids from trying to fit it all in make it a challenge.
When families spend quality time together, which is what a relaxing meal is meant to be, they experience significantly less stress. Parents and children weren’t meant to spend their time in different rooms all the time. What is the point of being part of a family?
#5 Families Bonding
Bonding is a scientific process. The way a mom bonds with her infant is by spending time with them. That means skin to skin! Usually, this happens when they are nursing or feeding.
Sometimes parents find it hard to bond with their children when they get older. But, it doesn’t have to be over.
Family dinnertime is a good way to spend time together. Spend time talking to your child or teen over dinner. This will help build stronger relationships and get to know them better.
#6 Saves Money
All those extra-curricular activities your children participate in cost money. There are additional costs beyond just the activity, such as:
- Snacks for practice
- Fast food because there isn’t time for dinner at home
It all adds up!
Why Don’t Families Eat Together Anymore?
There is a trend happening that is not good for families. Families are getting rid of their dining room tables. Dining rooms are getting less common in new homes. Let’s look at why this is happening and what we can do about these dinnertime challenges.
-Two-Income Families & Single Parents
In the typical family, both parents work, which makes it hard for either parent to have the energy or motivation to cook dinner when they get home.
But you can have a simple meal on the dinner table in 30 minutes if everyone helps. There are also kitchen tools that help prepare meals quicker and easier, such as:
- Air fryer
- Pressure cooker
These kitchen tools really come in handy when you have to work late and are rushed for time.
It’s even more difficult for single parents because they don’t have their spouses to fall back on for help. But you can enlist other single parents or your children in family dinnertime.
Some ideas could be:
- Come up with a schedule where each of you cooks on different nights.
- Swap cooking with clean-up with another single parent.
- Cook double portions to put up for the other family while they do the same and swap meals.
- Prepare meals over the weekend and stick them in the freezer so they can just be heated for dinner.
- Your child can learn how to cook simple meals. Try these kids cooking recipes I found.
-Too Many Extra-Curricular Activities
Today’s families are busier than they were in the past. Did you know that most children spent only 90 minutes on after-school activities each week in the 1990s? Today, it seems like they’re doing everything.
This is the most common reason families prefer to grab fast food rather than eat together as a family. It’s too much if you have an activity every night of the week. Allow the children to choose just one activity that they enjoy the most, and drop the rest.
Some parents seem to think more activities are better. And that more activities will keep their child out of trouble. However, the truth is that more activities only create problems and stress.
People are so accustomed to looking at their screens that it’s difficult for them to give up this activity in order to sit down and eat a meal. This goes for kids too.
This is a habit that needs to be replaced. Teach your family that everyone will sit at the dinner table to eat together without their phones. You have to remove all distractions from the family meal if they are going to be successful.
-Don’t Have Time to Shop for Food
How many times have you come home to cook dinner and realized you didn’t have anything to cook? Or you were just out of one thing that you needed.
I get it that has happened to me one time too many! And I hate shopping on weekends when everyone else is out shopping. What I have started doing is ordering my groceries for delivery and pickup.
I’ve tried many different grocery delivery services, but Walmart Grocery is my go-to. They will deliver to your house between 8 am and 8 pm for less than $10 a month (if you pay annually), and all deliveries over $35 are free. And you get the same price if not better than shopping in-store.
Instacart delivers most other local grocery stores. But they do add an upcharge on each individual item you purchase plus the delivery fee. If you don’t mind the extra cost Instacart is a great option since they are super convenient to order at the last minute.
There are also multiple restaurant delivery services. We no longer are stuck with only having pizza or Chinese takeout. Place an order and have your food ready for family dinnertime in under an hour. Here are some of my favorite food delivery services:
Don’t get discouraged if you find yourself in one of these scenarios. You don’t have to be perfect to reap the benefits of dinner together.
How to Make Family Dinnertime Easier
– Start Out Small
Every family should be eating together at least once per week. But it can be a challenge to make this happen. So just start with one or two nights a week and then work your way up. For starters, try out a Friday or Sunday.
– Don’t Stress About the Food
It’s more about the togetherness than the food. You can try takeout or breakfast for dinner.
– Everyone Sets Up and Cleans Up
Carry the conversation from dinner to clean up. Even young children can help clean up dishes and wipe down the table. If the kids are prone to argue about who does what create a chore chart and alternate what clean-up chores each child has.
How Can You Make Dinnertime Fun for the Whole Family?
– What is for Dinner?
How many times a week do you hear this question? I suggest creating a meal plan for the week and posting it on a menu board or dry erase board in the kitchen.
Besides not having to answer that question a million times a week, every member of the household will see what foods are coming up and can look forward to it.
– Have Kids Help Plan the Meal
I can’t stress this enough. The dinnertime will be a lot more successful if the kids help plan out the menu for the week as well as helping with the food preparation as much as they can.
This is especially true for picky kids. If kids help pick out the food and prepare it, they are more likely to eat it.
– Create Fun Traditions
If you want family dinner to be a truly memorable experience, create fun family traditions and rituals around dinnertime. Here are some ideas:
- Create daily food menus like Taco Tuesdays and Spaghetti Saturdays.
- Play a game like musical chairs to choose where everyone sits that week.
- Play a game or read a book before dinner each night.
- Eat by candlelight on Sundays.
- Have a picnic dinner in the backyard or on the living room floor once a week.
- Each person chooses their birthday dinner.
What to Talk About at the Dinner Table?
Dinnertime should be fun, interesting, and free of conflict. Keep these do’s and don’ts in mind.
– Conversation Do’s and Don’ts
- Don’t talk about bad grades or school problems.
- When discussing heated topics like politics, religion, etc., keep them from becoming heated debates by using a signal like ringing a bell to end the discussion.
- Skip painful topics such as the family dog just dying until everyone is ready to talk about it.
- Give everyone a chance to speak.
- Don’t force your opinion on anyone.
- Have conversation starters that require more than a yes or no answer.
- Teach not to speak with their mouth full of food.
– Family Dinner Conversation Starters
Here are some dinner conversation starters to get you started. Write these conversation starters on pieces of paper and put them in a box to draw at the table. Usually, once you get started, the conversation will flow.
- What is something that happened today that you loved?
- If you won a million dollars, what is the first thing you’d buy with the money?
- What are you most excited about for the week ahead?
- What’s the most favorite thing about the person on your right?
- If you had one wish, what would it be (besides more wishes)
- What would be the best way to spend a day off work or school?
- What did you do for someone today?
- Who did something nice for you today?
- What is your greatest fear?
- What meal do you want us to have next?
- If you could go anywhere for our summer vacation, where would it be?
- What do you like most about our house?
- If you could create a new holiday, what would it be, and how would you celebrate it?
- What is a goal you want to achieve by the end of this year?
- What do you see yourself doing in five years, ten years, and twenty years?
- If you could meet one famous person (living or dead), who would it be, and what would you want to do with them?
- What is your favorite book? Why?
- What book would you want to read next?
- Describe your favorite family vacation
- What is your favorite movie, and why?
- What movie do you want to watch next and why?
- Name a favorite family memory
- What is one positive word you would use to describe yourself
- What are you most thankful for right now, and why?
- What’s the first memory you have in your life?
- What do you think it’s like living in ___________ (fill in a place)?
- If you could be president of the United States, what is the first thing you’d want to accomplish?
- What is the one thing you’d want to be remembered for if you were the mayor of our city?
- What is something you want to be remembered for now?
- If money were no object, what would you want to do for a career?
- What do you want to learn about in school?
Make sure to ask open-ended questions and for further explanation from your children when they talk. In other words, you want to appear interested in what they’re saying, so look right at them and pay attention.
This not only improves communication skills but also increases confidence, which is fantastic protection against peer influence.
Does Your Family Eat Dinner Together?
Eating together is an activity everyone will look forward to eventually. However, don’t be discouraged if they are resistant at first. Most children love to eat with their family once they are used to it.
What is a conversation starter you use in your home? Drop it below in the comments.
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