By the end of the day, sitting down as a family to eat dinner can tend to sound, well, less-than inviting when you have young kids. So, we changed our family dinners.
The truth is… a lot of our friends don’t even have family dinners at the table, without TV and all at the same time, because of the stress that comes with it. However, these moments are actually some of the best moments to use to teach our kids.
Our family dinners used to, and still can be, chaotic. When you gather several little kids and two tired parents around the dinner table, things do not always go as expected.
I think I said “Sit down” and “Can you get it yourself” and “Why are you talking like we can’t hear you? Please don’t yell.” More times than I can count. There were times when I wanted to give up on these times around the table, but something in me made me push through.
Over time, I started to realize a few changes we could make to help our meal times improve for our family. By implementing these three things, I think you can start seeing your family dinners become one of your most favorite parts of the week!
Use Conversation Starters. Dinnertime can quickly turn into chaos because of the lack of structure. Having conversation at dinner is extremely beneficial. Some fun ideas are to use a conversation cup (everyone takes the cup, talks and then passes it on) or share one positive and one negative part of your day: we call it our “high of the day” and our “fail of the day.” We then ask them what they learned from their fail and how they can make it a good thing. Everyone can go around the table sharing. This is a great way to grow closer as a family and encourage listening.
Take Turns Preparing Dinner. When your kids are old enough, let them take turns helping with dinner. Eventually, they can even take over planning and preparing a meal. This is a great way to to teach practical life skills and encourage involvement of the family. Plus, you may find a hidden cooking talent in one of your kids! Our kids LOVE to do this. It really boils down to them getting one-on-one time with you.
Mix Up the Location. During a span of time where our family dinners seemed to constantly end in chaos, we decided to switch things up. Instead of eating around the table, we laid a blanket out on the living room floor and had a picnic dinner. Note- this works best with non messy dinners. Other ideas would be to eat outside or even take dinner to the park, moving to the dining room or eating on the back porch. It is really good for our kids to see us being flexible and having fun with the everyday moments of life.
Dinnertime can become something that you enjoy and your children treasure for years to come. They will remember the times when you talked about their highs & their fails. They will remember your encouragement and how you really listened when they talked. They might not remember what was talked about, but they will remember how they felt.
Even though it can be a stressful time, especially in the little years, take the time to invest in these moments. Start trying these tips today and watch your mealtimes become less stressful!