As our family has grown and our kids become older teens and young adults one of the family practices that gets caught up in the by-wash of busyness is the family evening meal: dinner time. When our kids were younger I protected this time in the evening; dinner time was family time so it has been quite disruptive not to have that happening consistently during the week. I miss it and I believe our kids miss it too.
So last week we had a family discussion looking at everyone’s sport commitments (because it is sport that is happening at that time of the evening) and seeing which days it would work and which days is just too hard. We’ve decided that no family time on Monday, a late dinner on Tuesday and Thursday and an earlier dinner on Wednesdays. We’ve made a commitment that week night dinners are about a quick catch up, rather than deep and meaningful slow dinners. We’ll find time for those when we can on weekends.
My personal goal is to have one such dinner a month but shhhh I haven’t told the kids that!! We also have Sunday breakfast that has maintained consistent in being a great family time for fun, and talking. So there is our plan – not only are we a little accountable to each other because we’ve all be involved in the discussion, but now you guys know too!
You may be in a different season of life but being intentional about family dinner time is relevant to any season of family life. Family life is always busy – my busy just looks different than your busy. Busy is the biggest thief of being intentional so when we stop for a moment and make a decision to do this thing that is the first step towards working on the things that your heart says is important.
So why is dinner time so important
I have always said that dinner time is about more than just the food – yes, we need to have the nutrition that a good meal gives us, but our soul and our family soul also gets fed when we get together at the end of the day.
The benefits are:
- Sitting together creates community – a sense of belonging to something bigger than just you, and it creates a space where we can strengthen our relationship with each other.
- Sitting around the table gives an opportunity to practice good manners – not just table manners, but conversation practices, and ways of serving one another.
- Coming together and allowing conversation teaches conversation skills – when to talk, when to listen, how to ask questions.
When we don’t spend time together our house quickly becomes a cafeteria – a place to find quick food and yet you keep moving on with your individual life. Though we talk about family dinners the time of the day really isn’t the point; we can catch up over dinner, breakfast or supper before bed. The principle is that as a family we need to spend time together, share parts of our life with each other, and show interest in each other’s lives and interests.
We are made a family by birth but we will live as a family by the choices we make.
As with most things that happen in family life the commitment and attitude of the parent make the biggest difference.
Over the years I’ve often been challenged that I have a different attitude about eating with others than I do about eating with my family. I put more effort into the times when friends come, I relax and sit and enjoy more. For us to build a family culture where we make dinner time a priority then we must start to treat our family meals much like meals with friends – at least within our attitude.
Of course there are always those days that are rushed and crazy and we eat a quick pre-packaged meal. But our family doesn’t have to be characterised by that. And to be honest – our family was starting to be characterised by that.
So first step – attitude check for mum. What effort, what vibes am I putting out about getting together?
Make it happen in your house
Keeping in mind our family discussion, and the things that have happened this week here are my quick tips to get back to having a family meal time (if not every day, at least for most of the days)
1–Have a good look at your night-time activities – look for the things that are creating the conflict for family time. Decide which is a priority, and look for alternate ways to catch up on the days where the activity stays.
2–Plan ahead – Plan a menu, and a time to cook. Over the years my type of cooking has changed as the time in my day to cook has changed with the growing of my family. On really busy days we love the crockpot, on other days we have recipes that can be prepared within the hour. But unless there is time in my day to prepare food, we will revert to something fast and that reflects on our relationship time.
3–Commitment to no fuss – make your time together about relationships. No fuss. Every family meal doesn’t have to be linen and silverware with in depth conversation. Keep it simple – keep it about relationships, and keep it real in terms of how long you can linger together.
4–Be flexible – keep the communication channels open and if someone can’t make it – be a family with whoever is in the house. This has been a key for us with Peter working away from home so often, and even now with the kids different activities. We are a family if it is just Peter and I, or me and one or two kids. I believe in this day of mobile communication that if we are not able to make family time we can at least let people know. Good manners!
Here are some questions for you
Are dinner times together happening in your house?
Yes? – great – are they about relationships or are they about the food? Is there any way you can tweak things to improve relationship time around the table?
No? If this idea rings true to your heart, then this weekend would be a good time to pull your hubby aside, grab a cuppa and talk about your heart’s desire to make dinner time a relational family time. Start working on how you can make it happen – together.
What’s your story about family dinner times?
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