Living in the 21st century means life for the average family is always busy. And fast-paced living often means that sit-down family dinners fall by the wayside. But it needn’t be this way. It’s really not that hard to revive the concept of good old-fashioned family meal time.
Sitting down to eat, as a family around a dinner table, is the perfect way to take a few deep breaths and escape from the hectic schedules we set ourselves. It’s also a great chance to reconnect with every member of the family, no matter how young or old they are. And whilst energetic toddlers might be reluctant to sit still for the duration of the meal, the important thing is to get the routine going and set the expectation – it may take a while, but they will eventually understand that dinner time is family time.
Here’s how to reinstate sit-down dinners at your place:
Get the whole family involved
Family meal time is not just about eating together; it’s also about preparing and clearing away the meal together. So round up the troops and hand out the chores. Toddlers and preschoolers can help set the table with a simple task such as putting napkins at each place setting. Older kids should be encouraged take part in more complex jobs like serving the meal or doing the dishes. You can always drum up a bit of extra enthusiasm by using a reward chart to show the kids you value their contribution.
Encourage positive conversation
During the meal give each family member a chance to voice the best thing about their day and the most challenging thing about their day. This is a great way to share positivity, as well as an opportunity to help members of your family solve any issues that they might have at school, work or with friendships. So, pass the talking stick (or salt shaker) around the table, tune-out from the world outside, and tune-in to the dinner table conversation.
Have a theme night
Put the FUN back into FAMILY and arrange a themed family meal once a week. It can be as simple as declaring every Saturday to be Spaghetti Saturday and thereby preparing a spaghetti-based dinner with a different accompanying sauce each week. Or you can take it a step further and choose, for example, a Hawaiian theme – complete with a Mango and chicken salad and pineapple juice sipped through coloured straws. If you’ve got the time, add an extra ‘wow’ factor with Hawaiian themed table decorations.
Enjoy a takeaway dinner together
You can still eat as a family even when you don’t do the cooking yourself. Huddle around a hearty Italian pizza or a pick of your favourite Thai dishes and enjoy some quality family table time. Whilst indulging in takeaway dinners is not something you should do every week, it’s a great treat for the family that you can schedule into the calendar once a fortnight or once a month. You’ll be surprised how quickly everyone will take their seats at the table when you call “pizza is here!”
Turn off the TV (and everything else!)
Family meal time should be free from all electronic distractions. This means no TV, DVDs, iPads or iPods, laptops or other gadgetry. And definitely no personal game consoles at the table! The only exception to the rule is perhaps some ambient background music. You can even turn out the lights for a bit more atmosphere, and eat by candlelight.