This is a guest post from Ally of The Modern Mary. She wrote a great post for us before: 15 Prayer Journal Prompts To Strengthen Your Marriage. So now she is back with a post How To Make Family Dinner A Happy Reality!
I will be the first to admit that family dinnertime is so stressful and not exactly something I look forward to.
Kids complaining, parents in a bad mood, and of course nobody likes what’s on the menu. And seriously, how many drink refills, napkins, forks, and spoons does one kid need? Sometimes it is so tempting to feed the kids peanut butter & jelly sandwiches early in the evening and then have an adult meal with my hubby after the kids are in bed.
Peace and quiet while I eat my dinner—ahh!
With all the frustration that comes with a family dinner, I still feel like they are worth it. The memories and the routine will have positive consequences for years to come.
So this is my humble attempt to create a calm, peaceful, and efficient family dinner time. I’m not going to give up—I’m all in on the family dinner this year!
How to Make Family Dinner a Happy Reality:
- Keep it simple:
Think 15 minute meals or crock pot meals. Keeping the food simple will allow you to spend less time in the actual kitchen preparing the meal and more time with the people you love. Check out this list when you’re at a loss as to what to make for dinner?
Maybe consider theme nights for each day of the week: Slow Cookers Sunday, Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, Whatever Goes Wednesday (leftovers), Pasta Thursday, FUN Friday (kid’s choice) and soup/sandwich Saturday.
Not only should the meal be simple, but so should the planning of the meal. Check out my simplified approach to meal planning. It has literally changed my life—and my family’s too.
- Be consistent:
There will be seasons when having a nightly family dinner just isn’t possible because kids play sports or are involved in youth group. Life just brings constant change—and that’s ok, but there is something so comforting-to kids and adults-about consistency. Knowing that dinner happens at 6pm every night—rain or shine—provides a real sense of security as toddlers become tweens and teens.
Even if you have to eat in the car, on the sidelines, or as you’re running out the door. Consistency is what will bring your kids back to the dinner table when they are teenagers and beyond.
- Enlist your kids’ help:
Have your kids help you plan the menu and maybe even prepare the meal itself. My kids are still pretty young, but if I even let them stir the sauce, they are more likely to eat it without complaint because they helped cook it.
As your kids get older, allow them the freedom to learn how to plan, prepare, and serve a meal with love. This is a skill that is a lost art.
It takes real patience to cook with kids. The mess can be almost unbearable! And honestly, it’s quicker and easier to just do it yourself. But trust me—your patience will pay off in the future when your kids are self-sufficient and capable in the kitchen.
- Have appropriate discussions:
Don’t discuss heavy issues—such as Junior’s bad attitude or Susie’s misbehavior at school. Use the dinner hour to build each other up and discuss encouraging or exciting topics.
Talk about future plans and goals or the family vacation coming up in a few months. But please—keep the discipline away from the table.
- Start a fun dinnertime tradition.
I have always loved the “High/Low” question. You ask your child or spouse what the high point of the day was and then the low point as well. You might think that talking about a low point at dinner qualifies as a “heavy” topic, but it doesn’t. It gives real insight into what your kids are experiencing and opens up a line of communication that would otherwise be closed. It also gives an awesome opportunity for encouragement and different points of view to be shared.
I would encourage parents to be honest with their kids about the low points in their own days. Being vulnerable encourages your kiddos to do the same. Especially those teens!
- Make dinnertime “electronic free”:
Use that hour at dinnertime to charge all of those devices….you too, Mom and Dad!
I think it goes without saying that being free from phones and tablets and other such distractions will allow conversation to really flow.
Because it’s a new year, I’m making a new commitment to a peaceful family dinnertime using these 6 strategies—and I can’t wait to see the happy results!
Did I miss anything? What do you do to keep the dinner hour sacred in your house? Leave a comment and let me know!
Ally blogs at The Modern Mary. She loves to read, write, pray, study the Bible, doodle, and watch TV—sometimes all at the same time! She has a passion for helping and encouraging others to find their identity in Christ through focused prayer and by keeping a Prayer Journal. Ally is on a journey to be more like Mary and less like Martha—to keep life simple! She stays busy by leading Bible study and homeschooling her 3 young boys. Follow Ally on Facebook, Pinterest, & Instagram.