I have a love/hate relationship with family dinners. Let’s face it, mamas: family dinners are HARD. All that meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking, and cleaning up dishes. Every. Single. Day. It’s exhausting.
I never knew that the exceedingly basic act of feeding your children could literally sap your last bit of the day’s energy. And guess what? You still have bedtime to go. There are days when 6 pm rolls around, and I don’t know whether to pour a glass of wine or brew another pot of coffee.
That being said, I love sitting down to dinner with my family every night. All that work is so worth it to me to keep family dinner as part of our nightly routine. It is a chance to hear about our children’s days, as well as to talk and laugh together.
For quieter nights, when everyone is tired and cranky, we keep a jar of questions on the table to get a conversation going.
Lest our family dinners sound peaceful and serene, please keep in mind that the talking and laughing is regularly interrupted by feet on the table and repeated requests to SIT. DOWN. Why is sitting to eat so hard?! But I love it.
Dinnertime is truly the only time during the day that we are all in the same room at the same time.
Researchers from various universities have found numerous benefits to families eating dinner together on a regular basis. Children whose families eat together have been shown to be healthier, have higher achievement scores, and better vocabularies.
Correlations have also been demonstrated between family dinners and a teen’s decreased risk of a whole host of high-risk behaviors, including eating disorders, drug use, and sexual activity.
If you want to get in the habit of family dinner, but the thought makes you want to run for the hills, here are a few tips to get you started:
Set boundaries around meal time ahead of time
Our kids don’t have phones yet, but the parents’ phones aren’t allowed at the table. Neither are books or toys! This helps us eliminate as much distraction as possible…you know, so we can watch our kids bounce around the table instead.
Our kids also know that they are expected to take at least 1-2 bites of all foods. We tell them that it’s fine to dislike things, but it’s not ok not to try. This obviously won’t work for all children, but it works for us! Set guidelines around meals that make sense for YOUR unique family.
Set attainable goals around family dinner
If you aren’t in the habit of eating together as a family, start small! Pick one or two nights a week that your family has the fewest commitments, and make a point to eat together on those nights.
You can always increase the frequency, but don’t set yourself up to be discouraged.
Choose easy meals!
Eating together doesn’t have to be a big production. My kids get just as excited about “breakfast for dinner” as they do about steak and shrimp.
Freezer meals and crockpot meals are also great ways to eliminate time in the kitchen after a long day. I have fallen head over heels in love with Hello Fresh.
We only order one box per month, as that’s all we have budgeted for, but I so look forward to those little dream boxes. And for goodness sake, order pizza without guilt when you need to! It’s the time you spend engaging with each other that counts.
You can do it! You are strong. You are tough. You are MOM.
Family dinners might make you lose a teeny bit of your sanity, but the relationship benefits you will reap with your kiddos will amaze you.