We’ve all heard that kids who eat dinner with their families:
- get better grades
- are less likely to do drugs
- have higher self esteem
- have an increased chance of graduation
- have a lower risk of childhood obesity
- etc, etc.
It seems like everyone is always touting the benefits of family dinnertime. But you are busy! You work late. The kids have sports after school and play rehearsal in the evening. There’s hours of homework to be done and dishes in the sink. So how are you expected to do this whole family dinner thing too on top of it all?
Firstly, don’t stress over it and don’t beat yourself up. There are ways to make it work for everybody.
It doesn’t have to be dinner.
A lot of the benefits of family dinnertime come from the sense of togetherness it brings, not solely from the food.
So if you tried to find a day that would work for you but there just isn’t one try a different meal. Maybe in the morning everyone leaves at the same time, so you could plan to have breakfasts together. Or after Saturday morning soccer games everyone gets back home at thes same time so you could arrange to do Saturday lunches every week. If that doesn’t work either, try a snack time before bed.
Food is an easy excuse to gather a family around a table, but if there really is no way to schedule a meal together, any kind of regular family time that allows for or facilitates conversation and togetherness can provide many of the same benefits.
Keep it stress free with easy meals.
Dinner doesn’t have to be gourmet. Trying to create entire fancy meals can be daunting and stressful. If you are stressed out during mealtime, you and your loved ones will probably not receive the full benefits of being together. Make it easy.
That Taco Tuesday we mentioned? An easy meal to throw together. The kids can even help rip the lettuce or take toppings to the table. Another favorite of ours is simply veggie sandwiches or wraps with homemade fries. Baked potatoes with lentils, veggies, or even just broccoli are great. Soups are easy to make. Rice bowls are quick if you make the rice ahead of time. Know simple recipes that everyone likes and keep simple foods on hand.
Meal planning can also help with this. Make ahead meals, slow cooker meals, things that are ready for you when you walk in the door are wonderful. One way that I make meals easy when I know we have a crazy week coming up is by utilizing a meal delivery service. Purple Carrot is one I use and highly recommend. (Read my review here.)
Get everyone involved.
The kids can help cook. They can also help clean up. They can put their dishes in the sink at least if they are really little and the older ones can put them in the dishwasher. The more people pitch in the easier it becomes for all.Family
Pick a day and schedule it.
If you can’t have family dinner everyday, find a day during the week that people are home or at least, less busy. Maybe your kids don’t have anything scheduled for a certain day or your spouse can come home early one day. Dedicate that day to family dinners and let everyone know they are expected at the table.
Make it an event.
My kids love the idea of Taco Tuesday. That is an event they would never miss.
Often, on Fridays, we have picnic night. In the winter, when we can’t go outside, we put blankets and a tablecloth on the floor and have an indoor picnic.
My cousin has 4 daughters and 6 grandkids. He loves to cook out so the whole family – kids, grandkids, husbands, and boyfriends all get together and have a big family dinner on the weekends. It’s such a beautiful event with so much love and energy in the air that everyone looks forward to it and can’t wait to get together.
Big or small, making an event of it makes it fun for everyone.
How do you find time for family bonding?