Families are eating together less and less. It’s a sign of the times—of schedules getting busier and busier. But families that make dinner together at least several nights a week a priority know that it’s worth the effort to do so.
It doesn’t mean it has to be a dinner out. It doesn’t even need to be a fancy meal. Just an opportunity to be together. After all, isn’t that part of what being a family is about—sharing life together? And shouldn’t we make this a priority in our busy schedules?
Mealtime is more than just putting fuel in our bodies to keep us going. It’s a chance to spend time together and share the events of our day. It can also be a time to learn good table manners as well as how to interact and appreciate each other.
Here are a few recommendations for making the most of your mealtime together as a family:
- Have a plan. What nights work out with your family’s schedule to eat at the table together? Even if there’s football practice or gymnastics class, you can schedule your dinnertime around these and plan to eat together. Some nights might even wind up being take-out food, but at least you are experiencing it together.
Alert the media. Make sure everyone knows which nights are planned for family meals and plan accordingly. If you have young children, that isn’t a problem. But as your children get older and begin to have schedules of their own, it’s something that needs to be discussed and agreed upon.
Give reminders. It’s wonderful to have dinner at the same time every night. But if that’s not possible, be sure to remind everyone of the schedule. Whether that be for teenagers, young children, husbands, or even yourself, make sure everyone is on the same page at the start of the day. Then as you get close to mealtime, give a 10-15 minute warning. This is especially helpful to make the transition easier. I wasn’t always good about this and my children will tell you it was frustrating for them when I didn’t.
Practice your manners. Some basics just to get started:
- Ask for food to be passed.
- Put your napkin in your lap before starting to eat.
- Wipe your mouth before taking a drink.
- Chew with your mouth closed.
- Don’t talk with your mouth full..
- Wait for your turn to talk.
- Listen to others as they are sharing.
- Ask to be excused.
- Clear your plate.
And no cell phones or screens of any kind at the table! When our children were growing up, it was just the landline phone but it wasn’t allowed to be answered during mealtime—even when it meant listening to the incessant ring in the next room. But ignoring phones and screens is an integral part of making this family mealtime successful.
Supportive conversation at meals. Make mealtime a memorable time for everyone. Take turns letting each person share about their day. What was the best thing that happened? What was the funniest thing? Go around the table and make sure everyone is duly listened to, no matter how unimportant the content may seem. Sometimes in the Andersen home, we would have a Compliment Blast: we’d choose a person of the day and everyone took turns shouting out compliments to/about that one person. Mealtime can actually be a time to encourage and support one another! Something the whole family will learn to look forward to.
As moms, it is our responsibility to make sure we have family mealtimes as often as possible. Not all members of the family will see the importance of what you are trying to do. Yet I can tell you from experience, the relationships in your family will be much stronger as a result of using the family table well.
Question: How do you make mealtime an important part of your family life? Share your answer in the comments below.