Got Family Dinners?


Tips to help make dinner that happen more often and impact your family in a positive way. #Familydinner

“We are so busy!” Sound familiar?  This is the most common excuse for families eating on the go and eating apart.  With the holidays coming to an end and our busy lives picking up again with school, late workdays, sports and music lessons, I felt it was a perfect time to talk about the importance of eating together as a family.

You have heard it before I am sure, but the reality is that if your family eats dinner together, your kids have a much better chance of avoiding a lot of those “things” that you don’t want them to get into; like drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol as well as doing those “things” you do want them to get into; like good grades!

So as we move ahead into 2010, if you are not eating together as a family as often as you would like, here are some tips to help make that happen more and impact your family in a positive way.

  • Cut down on activities

Is one of the reasons you don’t eat together as much as you would like because your kids have activities that fall in the dinner hour?  Sometimes you have to weigh the benefit of some activities to how much negative impact it may have on your family.  One reason I enjoy the time from December – March in our home is that our kids take a season off from sports.  We have no where that anyone has to be and we can eat dinner together nearly every night.  I realize this is a hard one from some parents to “grasp”, but it is okay if your kids aren’t in an activity at all times.  Imagine the family time that can be created with that extra time, especially if you have more than one child.

  • Set the expectation

You have the ability to let your family know that dinner together is not an option; they will show up!  Everyone can plan their activities, homework time, etc around the dinner hour.  This has worked very well in our house.  I think nearly everyday I get asked three different times, from each kids what time dinner is.  They can then plan their time according to when we will be sitting down that evening.

  • Food, utensils, bodies and nothing else

Create the opportunity for conversation to come alive at your table.  Dinner time can be a perfect place to engage with your children, but you need to make sure there are not other distractions.  So have a rule:  no cell phones, IPODS, video games, TV, books, computers, newspapers, and definitely no interruptions – no answering the phone!  What is the point of having everyone show up for dinner if everyone is doing their own thing?  We have one exception to this rule, and that is a box of cards that have conversation starters in them.  It is a fun gift we received several years ago called, “Table Topics”.  This has created some interesting conversations and some serious belly laughs at our table!

  • Planning makes it better

As busy moms, dinner preparation and planning is a big thorn in our side.  I can totally relate and was getting rather frustrated with the whole process; picking recipes that my family liked, shopping, preparing and staying within our budget. For those who have followed me awhile, you know my secret weapon:  eMeals.  Since I have been using this service for menu planning my life has been changed and I am a much happier person when the dinner hour approaches!  I get a menu with 7 meals and recipes on it each Wednesday – including a shopping list.  I can easily get all the ingredients I need and then I am not running to the store at the last minute because I need something for a recipe.  I can know each morning what is for dinner and each recipe is quick, easy and very tasty!  A little bit of planning has saved my sanity, produced better meals for my family and reduced our food budget.  If you haven’t check it out, please do not let another day go by, you will not be sorry!

  • Make it special

Don’t worry, I am not into turning each dinner into a Martha Stewart event, but there are simple things that you can do that will make dinnertime special.  We started a few new things that have not taken anymore time, but have changed the atmosphere at our table.  I use cloth napkins a majority of the time. I picked up a few at the local discount store and we have been using them ever since.  Everyone loves the difference and it doesn’t take anymore time really.  Have some fun napkin rings to add to the set up and maybe some matching placemats and you are really set!  I also usually have a centerpiece at our table, typically nothing really fancy, but it always has a candle.  This has been a big hit.  Who ever is setting the table gets to light the candle and it just sets a different tone.  It is those little things that can make a big different in the experience.

So here is to family dinners together in 2010!  Make them often, make them fun and make them yummy!  Your entire family will reap the rewards for years to come.

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

Help Susan Help These Children!
  • Llita

    So, I am wondering some tips for eating dinner with toddlers. I have a 4 1/2 year old, a 3 year old, and a 1 year old. Conversation doesn’t really happen….Please help me!!!

  • Yes, you have a different set of challenges! 🙂 You certainly can set up expectations about what is acceptable at the table, and you can still have very basic conversation…..even asking silly questions to start a conversation, “If you could be any animal what would it be and why?” “What was your favorite thing that happened today?”. I think involving your children as much as possible so they feel a part of the process, dinner prep (you would be amazed at what you can get a 3 year old to do if you try…. folding napkins, setting silverware out, putting condiments on the table. You could get creative and think of ways to encourage good manners. I think the most important thing for you is to make sure you all sit down to dinner at the table and start making that the “norm” if it is not already. What you do now sets up what will happen in your family and what they children expect too. When they see everyone sitting at the table, eating food, not having “restaurant” service and connecting – you are providing a perfect experience. Hope that helps!

  • Susan Stitt

    I’ve been using for 6 months and want to reiterate what a time and money savings it has been for my family. As a Mom of teens, I had grown very weary of coming up with dinner plans every night. I was shopping every day, which lead to lots of unplanned purchases and not very clever meal choices. E-mealz has added great variety to our meals and has kept me out of the grocery store, at least 3 additional trips per week. I cannot advocate this service enough. I am saving all of the meal plans and will make copies for my college aged children when they are out in the world on their own.

  • Thank you so much for your comment! Yes, I keep all my menus too, we repeat some of our favorite recipes! 🙂 I love the idea of saving them to give to your kids – what a blessing for them! They are easy recipes, take at the most 30 mins and will help them save $$$!!! Thanks Susan!

  • Alicia

    Susan- I have 2 girls 12 & 9— since I’ve had a family we have always had dinner time together. It was never even a question. It was how I was raised also. We usually have good conversation with just 3 basic questions. What was the best part of your day? What was the worst part of your day? and What did you learn today. We all answer these questions, and it keeps us informed as parents as to what is going on in the kids life. I also love my E-mealz! The kids like to help out with them as well. It is a good start on teaching the girls how to cook. Thank you Susan for all your great ideas here.

  • You are doing things RIGHT! And it seems we have a run on EMealz! 🙂 I love your questions – I will include those at our dinner table. Happy New Year!

  • Yes, enjoy that time where she still thinks “it’s cool” to hang with mom & dad. There is hope though, so don’t give up the idea, my kids (17, 13, 9) still think it is fun and they actually look forward to when everyone is home at the same time for dinner (blended family can make it more challenging!) Thanks for the time to leave the comment! Happy New Year!

  • Sandra

    What a great reminder Susan!
    We have managed to have dinner together just about every night since before Marissa was born.. I remember that no matter what was happening in our lives when I was growing up, my parents always made it a point of having dinner together. We didn’t talk much (dad was watching the news!)but it still instilled in me the importance of that time together.
    Now we get to do it different with our daughter: we talk, we listen, we give thanks and we share.
    At 8 years old she still thinks is cool to sit with mom and dad!

  • Kalyn

    I love the cloth napkin idea! I think I might have to shop some sales to find a few for our table. Also, the candle sounds lovely.

    My husband and I don’t have children, but we love to sit down together and eat dinner at the table every evening. We have been married just over a year, and just began this tradition about six months ago, but we have noticed a HUGE difference in our relationship and general demeanor since we began eating together at the table. I am a fellow E-mealz user and cannot imagine going back to dinner time planning before E-mealz!

    Thanks for this inspiring blog Susan!

  • Thank you for taking the time to comment! Your discovery that the time you and your husband devote to eating together is just a preface for what it will do or can do if you have children in the future! It is amazing how much better conversation can be around the dinner table, no matter what the dynamics! I am sure the candle idea would be a big hit for you guys too! Happy New Year Kalyn!

  • Susan, Great blog post to remind us how important the little things are in our busy lives.

    When my boys lived at home we ate dinner together as much as possible. During their teen years sometimes their sports interfered with dinner. If they had a game during that time we were there to cheer them on so the time was still spent together as a family.

    Now they both live out of town but when they were in over the holidays they had to sit at their own “assigned seat” at the table. I know all those meals together left a special place in their memories as well as mine.

  • I can only imagine what it will be like when my kids are no longer at home……I love the idea of sitting in “their” seats! It does create wonderful memories, and isn’t that in our job description as moms??? 🙂 Thanks so much for the lovely comment!

  • Tiffany

    I support your comments about dinner together 100%. However, I also wanted to comment on making it a priority and NOT having your children in a ton of extra-cirricular activities. This year we have had to make some tough choices as we only, typically, allow our children to be doing one extra-cirricular acitivity at a time. This is great for family life, hard on them having to make decisions but they don’t grumble for too long. We have had family dinners since even before the kids were around and it is so important. I am thankful my husband was raised that way as I was raised in a house where the dinner table was used for mail and the only time we ate at it was for Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Otherwise we ate together, but on TV trays, in the family room starring at the TV. O the VERY rare occassion I allow my children to eat in front of the TV they think it is such a speical treat!

  • Completely agree with NOT having kids over-scheduled and making family time a priority. It is tough to make those choices, but in the long run I feel kids get more from being at home being a member in their family rather than learning a ton of different things. It is a balancing act for sure!!

  • We try to eat dinner together at least three times a week for an extended time. It’s hard to all the time because my husband is on call, and one of my teenage daughters teaches piano lessons before and after the dinner hour. But three times a week, without fail, we have a leisurely dinner. (The others we still try to sit down, but it’s not as elaborate).

    One night a week, though, we have games night afterwards. Recently my nephew stayed with us and saw our geekiness in action. We sang grace. We actually TALKED around the dinner table and joked with each other. We had an amazing meal. We read the Bible afterwards. And then we played Taboo.

    He said to my daughter a few days later, “does your family always have that much fun at dinner?” His parents are divorced, and he’s never really experienced a family dinner.

    It made me sad for him, but now we’re making it a habit to have him over for almost all of our game nights! It’s such a joy just to be together.

    Visit To Love, Honor and Vacuum today!

  • Loved your comment – thank you for sharing!! You seem to still make it a priority even with a very busy life and schedule with teens! I know your pain! I loved how you shared your experience with your nephew, that just goes to show how unusual it is for so many families to experience a nice dinner hour that is something everyone looks forward to. We have never sang “grace” but I think we shall start that once in awhile!! I love that you have chosen to reach out to him and help him experience that part of being a family. Blessings to your family for 2010~

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