Dinner sometimes doesn’t seem worth the time it takes to make it. Some families are home after a long day. Others are trying to fit in a quick bite between school, work, and soccer practice while dropping off another child at Taekwondo. When we do have a night at home, the 30-45 minutes it takes to make dinner doesn’t seem in balance with the 15 minutes it takes for our family to actually eat it. Sometimes it just seems easier to run to the drive-through and pick something up or pull something out of the freezer.
Our lives are centered around nourishment, though – not only the nourishment of food, but also the nourishment of our being. Throughout history, humans have met both of these needs during celebrations. At celebrations, we spend time with one another and share food together.
Instead of looking at dinner as an unappreciated chore, we can view it as a celebration - a celebration of family. When we do this, family dinners take on an entirely different light. Approaching dinner with mindfulness rather than as an automatic chore is healthier for both our waistlines and our mental health. The 30-45 minutes it takes to make the dinner suddenly balances itself out because we do it together, reconnecting after the day. Purposefully taking time for dinner lets our loved ones know that we care and are there for them. It may not be practical for families to sit down to a family dinner every night, but even a couple of times a week can be enough time to start reconnecting.
Here are a few suggestions to help make dinner a celebration of family:
- Consider everyone’s tastes when planning meals. Just as you wouldn’t invite someone over and serve only foods you knew they didn’t like, we should be just as thoughtful of those we love.
- Involve children in prep work. Even the smallest of children can help in some way. Involving everyone reinforces that they are a part of the family and allows them to make a positive contribution. That prep time is valuable time together, especially if the rest of your evening is packed. At the same time, children are learning valuable skills on how to prepare meals and take care of themselves and others.
- Break out the candles. Candles add an ambiance to any dinner. Unscented candles are best so that they don’t interfere with the aromas of the meal. My children like to make a wish when they blow them out at the end of a meal.
- Plan a favorite meal or try something new. We all have favorite foods which hold their own special places in our memories, but it’s also fun to try new things. Try planning a meal around a specific culture or event.
- Have some ground rules. While family dinner is a great way to talk about your day, a family celebration is no place for anger. Keep complaints about your job for another time.
- Pitch in for clean up. It’s no fun to be stuck cleaning up by yourself after the meal. Enlist some help. Cleaning up goes much faster when everyone pitches in together.
- Linger over the meal. When time permits, sit there, talking. It’s a wonderful way to reconnect with one another. If the kids are ready to move on, continue talking with your partner or one of your children. It’s a great way to get in some special time.
- Play games. Get your family talking with topics such as the ones on Table Talk Cards.
How does your family make dinner a celebration?