One area I always get overwhelmed with is when it comes to the dinner hour. It’s that time of day where you might not feel like cooking or doing all the planning and preparing. Even the atmosphere of the dinner table can often feel chaotic.
Do you feel like this sometimes?
Sometimes it feels like there are tons of different things going on at the dinner table. Even thinking about the billion of different things everyone has to still do. Over the years, I have felt that the dinner-hour was going extinct with everything else in our lives demanding our attention and time. Sometimes everyone was taking their dinner meal to their rooms to do their homework or other things that became a top priority over dinner time with family. There no longer would be family dinners eventually.
Maybe you are one that is struggling with this. Your kids might have so many activities and homework. Your working hours might be so busy. All these different things taking up your time.
But how can we get back to that dinner-hour with family and make it a priority in your home?
Why is the Family Dinner-Hour Important?
So many studies and research out there show how that just sitting down with your family and having dinner makes your kids more successful. Family mealtime has so many benefits, such as building close relationships with each other, eating nutritious meals, saving money, learning new skills like cooking, and teaching young kids social skills. Studies have even shown that family mealtime gives children a sense of security.
How Do You Make It Work?
Over the years I’ve learned that if I want to make family mealtime happen, I had to make adjustments with when dinner was. When my kids got older many of them started having different activities or working jobs. Sometimes my youngest sons would have football and wouldn’t end their practices until 6:30 at night. We wouldn’t have dinner until 6:30 at night then and wait it until we could all have dinner time with them.
There were other nights where sometimes we couldn’t have family mealtime together because everyone was off busy with another activity. Those nights were more for everyone to figure out there on dinner, or sometimes I would make something quick for the kids and leave it out for them.
I know it takes a lot of planning and organizing everyone to eat together. Sometimes that means having dinner earlier or later in the evening as well, but working around everyone’s schedule and activities is a must if you really want to have that family mealtime together.
How to Make the Family Dinner-Hour Work
1. Create Guidelines
This is the biggest things because you have to schedule the family mealtime. Sometimes the dinner hour might be earlier or later. Look ahead and see what activities you have on your calendar. Decide what time dinner will be that night and stick to it. What nights of the week can you fit in family dinner? It doesn’t have to be every night, but when you can make it work then make it work!
- No Technology – Turn off those electronics. They are going to be competing for everyone’s attention and become a huge distraction. Leave everything away from the table and focus on each other at the dinner table.
- No Discipline at the Table – Dinner time needs to be a positive time for everyone. Don’t make it a discipline time for your kids. If you need to do that do it away from the dinner table. Let it be a time where everyone can expect encouragement, talk about stories, and share their day. You want your kids to want to come to the dinner table, and not feel negative about having dinner with the family.
- Get Everyone to Pitch In – In our home I have everyone assigned chores to help. One of those chores is cleaning up dinner. Some of my older children will help prep for dinner as well. Dividing up the household chores, including preparing and cleaning up after dinner, makes everything run smoothly. It has also helped me feel less stressed. I am not the one doing everything and then becoming overwhelmed to do it all. So, get everyone to pitch in and help!
2. Create the Atmosphere
When we come together as a family to talk, laugh, share our stories, views, and ideas it needs to be a fun atmosphere. It also needs to be a safe atmosphere as well. So, how do you create that?
- Ask Questions – Asking questions are a fun way to start a conversation or have some very interesting conversations.
- Teaching Your Kids Manners – This is another great time to teach your kids table manners, especially if you have younger children.
- Speak Positive Words – On the windows closest to our kitchen table, I wrote everyone’s name up there with window markers. We then write positive words under everyone’s names.
3. Create Simple Meals
You don’t always have to create these fancy meals. Make meals that are fast, simple, and easy for you to plan out and have it on handle.
Here are three methods that have helped me over the years to simplify my meal planning.
- Crockpot Cooking – Find different crockpot recipes that you can simply dump and go. These are great for busy days or days you just don’t feel like cooking a lot. You can even plan ahead and freeze crockpot meals and let your slow cooker do all the work for dinner that night.
- Freezer Meal Method – Make batches of your favorite recipes and putting them in the freezer so they are already in there and ready. It can be lasagna, orange chicken, cranberry chicken, chili, and meatballs. I have everything prepped and ready in my freezer.
- Fast Meals – Create a cheater list of last-minute meals. What are your last-minute meals if everything went crazy that day? What are your go-to meals? Some of these might be grilled cheese sandwiches and soup, hamburgers, and frozen meals like pizza.
4. Create Each Evening in Your Home
An idea to make evenings fun in your home is having themed nights. These are ways to keep the fun going after dinner. Each weeknight or a couple nights of the week you can have different themed nights. You can have certain days of the week dedicated to one of these theme nights too!
Some different ideas for theme nights are:
- Game night
- Movie might
- Dessert night
- Devotion night
- Story night
- Family walk night
- Family fun night
Creating that little bit of fun to the dinner hour makes everyone look forward to something. I know everyone in the family is busy with homework, activities, and work, but you can create these fun nights with your family even if it is just once a week!