Strong Families Can Be Made Over Dinner
Dinner – It’s not just for survival.
Eating dinner, while necessary for nourishment, is something much more than that. It’s an opportunity to change the way your kids turn out. Yes, you read that right.
Dinner = better kids.
But not just the act of eating dinner. It’s what happens around the table – and who shows up – that can make all the difference in the world.
And in case you were wondering, there’s a TON of research that proves how impactful family dinners are. So if you’re interested in one of the easiest ways to build a strong family and pour into your children, we’re here to help with these 7 ways to boost kids’ confidence over dinner.
1. Make a Commitment
Moms, we get it. You’re swamped.
And grabbing a quick bite is simple and easy. But if you can make a commitment to sit down to dinner at least three days per week, you will see such a change you won’t want to go back!
If your family has been in the habit of grabbing food on the go or eating in different rooms in the house, it’s time to gather the fam together and make a commitment. You’ll need to ignore any potential protests or eye-rolling and let everyone know – This. Is. Happening.
While it might seemingly put a kink in some family members’ style at first, we’re willing to bet this won’t last long.
As you put these tips we’re about to share into practice, you’ll find everyone will start looking forward to family meal time with excitement and anticipation.
And, if you’re a single mom – forge ahead! You’ll find this practice enriching and engaging for your family too!
2. Mark Your Calendar
If you’re like most moms, if it’s not on the schedule – there is no guarantee it will happen!
So, mark your calendar (set up a reminder!) to make sure this is a scheduled time for your clan. And be sure to share your plan with the entire family, so they know what time dinner will be served and that they are expected.
While you’re shooting to achieve 3-5 dinners together each week, remember – life happens. Be flexible if things are crazy one night and it doesn’t happen as scheduled.
But don’t give up! If it’s an extra busy night, don’t throw in the towel. Instead, order pizza and gather around the table anyway. And if there are certain times one family member can’t make it, don’t stress; move ahead. Everyone else will still have a great time.
Regular dinners together will bring peace to your home in unexpected ways. The stability of dinner being part of everyone’s calendar provides a peaceful respite where you all take a break and, often, a breath!
3. Plan Ahead for Dinner
Did you know?
Just the smell of dinner and a set table makes a family get excited with anticipation for dinner. It’s the promise of something great!
But those moments don’t come without at least a little planning in advance. If you plan for dinner, it will be less stressful and more enjoyable for everyone.
Weekends are much easier to plan a nice home-cooked meal. But on busy weekdays, cut yourself a break and plan ahead with a crockpot meal you can toss together in the morning and let cook all day.
Or how about pulling out a frozen lasagna and pairing it with a salad and garlic bread?
The best way to approach this new goal of dinners together is to plan your meals one or two weeks out. Choose meals that take 30 minutes or less to put together and shop for the ingredients ahead of time.
Some of our moms like to write the menu down on a white board ahead of time to build that extra anticipation! (read: Tuesdays are just better when you know tacos are involved!)
You can really make the most of this time when you have the kids pitch in with preparing food and setting the table. They’ll be more invested when they feel like they’re part of the process. Plus, it’s those times of preparation that may offer more meaningful conversation than even will happen at the dinner table!
4. Sit Down to Dinner
Even if it was hectic getting food on the table (finally!), take a moment and breathe.
Sit down to dinner, smile at your family, and begin each night by allowing a different person to give thanks.
Gratitude sets the stage for your family meal and sets this “hour” apart. And connecting is what this time is all about, so encourage everyone to ditch the electronics and focus in on what’s most important – even if just for 20 minutes.
This is also a great time to gently enforce manners you’d like to see at the table. These family standards will help your kids in future social settings, as well.
5. Open a Discussion
You’ve planned your dinner, set the table, and achieved mission impossible by getting everyone around the table at the same time. Now…it’s time to talk.
Depending on the ages of your kids, you may have to overcome the awkward silence when you ask a question or make a comment. But know you are not alone, mom! We’ve all been there.
You can do a few things to combat stage fright at the dinner table. Order a box of conversation starter cards online. Some of them are serious, but many are funny. There’s nothing like a good family giggle to build strong bonds.
You can also check out the ideas in the Table Talk Sampler, which includes 31 days of ideas, stories, and activities. Read a bit ahead of time, and you’ll know just how to kick things off.
Or, you can try a table game such as I Remember When. Each family shares a memory, like “I remember when we found that huge horseshoe crab at the beach!” or “I remember when I got an award for citizenship at school.”
6. Relax and Enjoy the Meal
Above all, relax and enjoy the meal!
Don’t put too much pressure on this time. Let it evolve naturally. It may take a time or two to get in the flow, so keep things low key and comfortable for everyone.
Encourage everyone to avoid the temptation to wolf down the food and run off to the next thing. A good conversation will slow the speed and set the mood. Plus, eating slower is good for digestion. A bonus!
One crucial tip: lectures from Mom and Dad are off-limits at the dinner table!
This isn’t the time to chastise the kids for poor grades or messy rooms. (That can come later!) Make this a relaxing, happy, fun, and safe bonding time. This will build confidence in your kids as they learn that their family is in their corner.
7. Clean-Up as a Family
Does your family like to inhale spaghetti, then make a mad dash away from the cleanup?
Not so fast, everyone!
Cleaning up after dinner as a family accomplishes several things.
- It continues the time of togetherness and sets a tone of teamwork.
- It promotes a feeling of purpose in each family member, instilling confidence in your kids.
- It reminds children that they are a part of the family but not the center of it.
As the meal is wrapping up, dole out a few assignments. One person can clear the table, another rinse dishes, while someone loads the dishwasher. If you have more family members, have one wipe down the counters and another sweep the floor. Voila! Family bonding and a sparkling kitchen!
Dinnertime Can Change Your Family
In your child’s life – the family is an exclusive “club” where your little ones are accepted, celebrated, and nurtured. Their world is filled with increasing stress, isolation, cancel culture, bullying, and various challenging moments in school and among peer groups.
Frequent family dinners help with physical health and mental health. They are also confidence-building, giving your child the stability of a home base where they truly belong.
Final Advice: Don’t give up. If your first few family dinners don’t go as you hope, just let you and your family settle in. In a few weeks, you’ll find it’s become an oasis from the thumping chaos of our information-activity-stress-overloaded world. Family time is a treasure; as a mom, you can unlock this wealth for all to enjoy.
Be sure to listen to this week’s podcast, The New Bullies: What Parents Should Know, with Bill Robinson.