Every night my family goes through the same ritual: food is prepared, the table is set and we all sit down to dinner together.
I look forward to this time each day when we are able to share the day’s events and to enjoy each other’s company. Family meals are about more than nutrition. These times together create shared memories, jokes and values.
In fact, family meals are good preventive medicine. Researchers at Boston College found that children and teens who regularly eat with their parents are more likely to do well in school and less likely to engage in risky or destructive behavior.
If the first few meals don’t go well, don’t despair! Doing anything new can be difficult. Just as it takes more than a couple of falls to learn to ride a bike, it may take more than a couple of not-quite-successful dinners to get everyone in your family on board.
Here are some ideas for building a habit of shared family meals in your home:
- Start small. Don’t try to eat every meal together if this is something new. Pick just one or two nights a week. Be sure everyone schedules it on his or her calendar.
- The main goal is to eat together and enjoy each other’s company. It’s okay to eat carry out; just eat it together.
- Do not invite the television, computer or phones to dinner. The focus should be on each other and not on screens.
- To aid conversation, have some questions on hand to get things rolling. Ask everyone to share the best and worst part of his or her day or to tell one or two things each person learned that day. Try a flexible thinking question, like, “How would life be different if everyone could fly?”
- Have a way to designate the beginning and end of a meal. For us, everyone waits to eat until all are served and grace is said. After dinner no one is excused until all are done. This routine makes meals more orderly and stops people from rushing through their food and bolting from the table.
- Ask each family member for their ideas for fun or meaningful family meals. Involve everyone in preparations.
Remember that this should be enjoyable. Eating dinner together gives you a chance to create new family traditions and new family memories.
As you develop the habit of eating dinner as a family, you will reap lifelong rewards. Clear off your dining room table and enjoy a meal together today.
What are your ideas for making a family meal work? Share them below with a comment.
Interested in family dinners? You’ll also like these articles:
5 Slow Cooker Meals
What’s Cooking: Ideas for what to make for those family dinners
A Lesson in Home Schooling
Proper Playgroup Etiquette
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