It seems like family life gets busier each year. Sometimes it feel like we’re more connected to friends and co-workers through social media than we are to the people we see every day in our own homes. In fact, according to Gallup, only 47% of families sit down to eat together 4 to 6 times a week. http://www.gallup.com/poll/10336/Empty-Seats-Fewer-Families-Eat-Together.aspx. And research shows a direct correlation between eating dinner as a family and reduced risk of alcohol and drug use. https://www.fmi.org/family-meals-month/meals-matter.
So if we know family dinners are important, why is it so hard to get us all around the table?
Because you’re busy. Your son has baseball 2 nights a week, your daughter goes to dance every other night, your husband works late sometimes and there’s always a meeting to go to at school or church. I get it. It’s exhausting, right? There was a time when my husband and I were both working full-time, he was working on his Master’s degree and our kids literally had an activity every single night of the week. And you know what? Our family life was struggling because none of us were connected to each other.
So, my husband and I decided that family dinners should be a priority. It’s easier said than done. Sometimes it means that we eat as early as 5 or as late as 8. If you truly can’t all be together for dinner, have family dessert time once everyone is home from their activities. Or maybe breakfast works best for your family. It’s not the time of day or the meal that makes the difference. It’s taking the time to sit and share with each other that matters.
Here are 3 things that our family has learned by having regular family dinners.
When we all sit down together, there are some rules that everyone has to follow.
- First, no phones at the table…and that goes for my husband and I as well. We also don’t have the tv on or music playing. We’ve found them to be a distraction.
- Second, you don’t get up from the table until everyone is done eating. We spend this time talking and it teaches our kids to be respectful.
- The last rule is my favorite. When we sit down to have a family dinner, it is a gas-free zone. I have 3 boys and a husband. There are a lot of sounds and smells that happen in my house. The place they don’t happen is at family dinner. Thank you, Jesus.
In our house, family dinner isn’t just the actual meal, it’s also what happens before and after the meal. So before dinner, my son Josh has to set the table. After dinner, he has to clear the table, Drew rinses the plates and loads the dishwasher and our oldest, Nick does the dishes. That way everyone is contributing to the meal and is a part of it. Plus, mama doesn’t have to do the dishes…..WIN!
Maybe your kids are younger than mine and these chores don’t work for you. There are still ways for them to help. They can help set the table, just maybe not the knives….one can put out napkins and one can put out forks. They could put condiments back in the fridge or wipe down the table. When you give younger kids a job, they feel important…..you might find that they actually like having a ‘job’ because it makes them feel grown up!
When we first started family dinners, we would ask the kids what they did that day and they would say “I don’t know’. Drove. Us. Crazy. You don’t remember what you did 2 hours ago? So, we started what we call 3 things. Everyone goes around the table and shares 3 things from their day. For some reason, when we put a number to it, their brains engaged and they were suddenly able to remember that they played basketball in gym, got an A on their math test and learned a new song in orchestra.
Your family might want to do High’s and Low’s, where everyone shares what they liked best from their day and what they liked least. The best part of 3 Things is that everyone has to listen and NO ONE GETS TO TALK WHILE YOU’RE TALKING. In a house with 5 people, this rarely happens! But at the dinner table, it does. Mostly.
So my challenge to you for this week is to sit down to twice as many family dinners as you did last week. Maybe you never eat together. That means you should have 2 family dinners this week. Which is 2 more than you had last week, right?! And the more you sit down around a table and share a meal together, the more you’ll see the value it brings to your family and the more you will work together to make it a priority.
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