Dinnertime can be one of your best opportunities to talk as a family. Yet for most families:
Dinner time has become the forgotten time.
Families are busy. Many families aren’t home for dinner at the same time, or they eat on the run as each family member scatters to various activities.
My wife and I have to work hard to keep dinnertime a consistent family time. Our daughters each play three sports and are involved in student government, choir, and youth group. And, of course, they have homework. There are nights when we can’t all be home for dinner. So, through the years we’ve gotten creative at protecting this time.
1. Craft a routine.
Take a close look at your family’s calendar. Develop a weekly dinnertime schedule that takes into account meetings, study groups, rehearsals, games, work, and so forth. Some nights, dinner has to happen at a restaurant or maybe on the fly between events. Establish a realistic plan to have dinner together as a family on a consistent basis.
Recently, Amy, the girls, and I were eating at a restaurant. At the table next to ours, every person in a group of five was on his or her phone. No one was talking. Instead, they were all eating with one hand while holding their phones with the other.
I often hear parents complain about distracted dining. Remember, you are the parent. You decide what dinnertime looks like for your family. Though there will be times when you have to deviate from it, create a plan and enforce rules that will make dinnertime a consistent family time.
2. Establish parameters.
We’ve lived by these parameters for many years…and it works for us! Decide what your parameters will be and stick to them. Here are four of ours:
1. Eat at the table, not in the living room.
2. No television.
3. No cell phones.
4. Pray before you eat.
3. Promote communication.
One thing we do each night is have our girls answer the question: “What did you do today?”
We began asking our girls to answer this question when they were in elementary school. They are now in high school, and we no longer have to ask them to answer this question. Each night, they both look forward to telling Amy and me about their day. This has become a family tradition in our home…and a great way for Amy and me to learn so much about what is going on in our daughter’s lives!
If your children are young, start this tradition now.
“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” – Proverbs 22:6
4. Mix it up.
Amy and I look for imaginative ways to get our girls talking. It goes without saying that some children talk more than others. And just because they communicate well with you today doesn’t mean they’ll want to talk tomorrow. We make it a point to discuss school, work, the world, friends, social media, politics, and religion. We also try to mix it up. Every spring the NCAA releases the brackets for the March Madness basketball tournament. Several years ago we began our own March Madness tradition. The night before the first games of the tournament begin, we print four copies of the brackets, go to a restaurant, and each complete a bracket, choosing the final team we think will win the tournament. Though we often don’t know all the teams that enter the tourney, and rarely do all of us pick the winning team, we enjoy discussing basketball and our picks for the tournament.
Talking as a family sends the message to your children:
“Mom and Dad are invested in what’s important to you.”
Once you get your kids talking, you never know what you’ll hear.