“We are so busy!” Sound familiar? This is the most common excuse for families eating on the go and eating apart. With the holidays coming to an end and our busy lives picking up again with school, late workdays, sports and music lessons, I felt it was a perfect time to talk about the importance of eating together as a family.
You have heard it before I am sure, but the reality is that if your family eats dinner together, your kids have a much better chance of avoiding a lot of those “things” that you don’t want them to get into; like drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol as well as doing those “things” you do want them to get into; like good grades!
So as we move ahead into 2010, if you are not eating together as a family as often as you would like, here are some tips to help make that happen more and impact your family in a positive way.
- Cut down on activities
Is one of the reasons you don’t eat together as much as you would like because your kids have activities that fall in the dinner hour? Sometimes you have to weigh the benefit of some activities to how much negative impact it may have on your family. One reason I enjoy the time from December – March in our home is that our kids take a season off from sports. We have no where that anyone has to be and we can eat dinner together nearly every night. I realize this is a hard one from some parents to “grasp”, but it is okay if your kids aren’t in an activity at all times. Imagine the family time that can be created with that extra time, especially if you have more than one child.
- Set the expectation
You have the ability to let your family know that dinner together is not an option; they will show up! Everyone can plan their activities, homework time, etc around the dinner hour. This has worked very well in our house. I think nearly everyday I get asked three different times, from each kids what time dinner is. They can then plan their time according to when we will be sitting down that evening.
- Food, utensils, bodies and nothing else
Create the opportunity for conversation to come alive at your table. Dinner time can be a perfect place to engage with your children, but you need to make sure there are not other distractions. So have a rule: no cell phones, IPODS, video games, TV, books, computers, newspapers, and definitely no interruptions – no answering the phone! What is the point of having everyone show up for dinner if everyone is doing their own thing? We have one exception to this rule, and that is a box of cards that have conversation starters in them. It is a fun gift we received several years ago called, “Table Topics”. This has created some interesting conversations and some serious belly laughs at our table!
- Planning makes it better
As busy moms, dinner preparation and planning is a big thorn in our side. I can totally relate and was getting rather frustrated with the whole process; picking recipes that my family liked, shopping, preparing and staying within our budget. For those who have followed me awhile, you know my secret weapon: eMeals. Since I have been using this service for menu planning my life has been changed and I am a much happier person when the dinner hour approaches! I get a menu with 7 meals and recipes on it each Wednesday – including a shopping list. I can easily get all the ingredients I need and then I am not running to the store at the last minute because I need something for a recipe. I can know each morning what is for dinner and each recipe is quick, easy and very tasty! A little bit of planning has saved my sanity, produced better meals for my family and reduced our food budget. If you haven’t check it out, please do not let another day go by, you will not be sorry!
- Make it special
Don’t worry, I am not into turning each dinner into a Martha Stewart event, but there are simple things that you can do that will make dinnertime special. We started a few new things that have not taken anymore time, but have changed the atmosphere at our table. I use cloth napkins a majority of the time. I picked up a few at the local discount store and we have been using them ever since. Everyone loves the difference and it doesn’t take anymore time really. Have some fun napkin rings to add to the set up and maybe some matching placemats and you are really set! I also usually have a centerpiece at our table, typically nothing really fancy, but it always has a candle. This has been a big hit. Who ever is setting the table gets to light the candle and it just sets a different tone. It is those little things that can make a big different in the experience.
So here is to family dinners together in 2010! Make them often, make them fun and make them yummy! Your entire family will reap the rewards for years to come.