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Bringing Back the Family Dinner

We have always been in the habit of having family dinner. My husband and I both grew up in homes where family dinners were simply part of our life. It never occurred to me that we wouldn’t sit down and eat together. We just did. I thought everybody did. And maybe back then, most people DID.

But these days our lives have become so busy with kids’ activities and demanding work schedules, two income families, and single parent homes, that unfortunately, regular family dinners have started falling by the wayside.

My friend Christine Koh recently told me about a powerful new initiative called The Family Dinner Project, and I’m excited to share it with you. Their mission is to inspire families to enjoy food, fun, and conversation together.

How Kids Benefit from Family Dinners

Even though I already firmly believed that family dinners are an important part of building relationships and creating a healthy family life, I found this infographic from The Family Dinner Project enlightening.

For example, I had no idea that dinner table conversation may be even more beneficial than reading to our kids, and that family dinners reduce depression and anxiety and increase self esteem. It makes sense to me that regular family dinners would build connections with siblings and parents and help develop better eating habits, but did you know that there’s a strong link between family dinners and academic performance?

It’s something to think about.

Here’s another reason why I like The Family Dinner Project. Not only are they on a mission to inform, but they also educate by providing resources to help families make the most of their family dinners. Take a look at their Tips for Busy Families and these Conversation Starters.

I freely admit that our dinner table conversations are more often mutterings about our daily happenings than an intelligent discourse on current events and politics, but I’d like to bring back those types of meaningful conversations. I often think that I should be asking our kids what they think about things in the news and encouraging them to discuss religious and political ideologies, but then by the time we all sit down, I’m usually too tired to think about much else than asking them about their day at school. Which, of course, is also important to discuss. I’m eager to use some of the conversation starters provided by The Family Dinner Project and see where it leads.

They also have an initiative to inspire dinner-oriented acts of giving. You can join the movement by sharing your dinner-oriented acts of giving. For example, invite someone over for a meal or donate to a food pantry. Then tag your Instagram/Facebook/Twitter photos and updates with #familydinnerforward to inspire others.

If regular family dinners aren’t your habit, I’d encourage you to try it. As you know, I provide meal plans here on my blog every week. Meal planning definitely helps us keep our family dinner commitment strong. You can sign up to receive weekly updates if you’d like. The Family Dinner Project also has a slew of recipes and meal planning ideas to help encourage regular family dinners.

Regular doesn’t have to mean nightly. Due to our kids’ activities, we don’t manage family dinners every night, but we do our best. We average 4 or 5 meals together as a family per week.

If family dinners are something you’ve never done before, maybe start by having just one a week. It could become a new family tradition to look forward to. It doesn’t have to be fancy at all. Even if you’re just ordering pizza, take the time to sit down together for 10 minutes, eat together, and share about your day. If you have more time, make it fun and try some of these dinner games. If you try it, let me know how it goes!

I partnered with The Family Dinner Project to share this post. All opinions and experiences are my own.

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6 thoughts on “Bringing Back the Family Dinner

  1. We are strong believers of family dinners. It is hard know with a junior high and high school athlete, but manage a good 4 days during week, and every Sunday . Sometimes its a hey lets sit down at the table for ten minutes once everyone gets back from practice and games just to talk about our days. On nights when it has to be dinner on own schedules I always leave the kids a note on the counter just telling them how my day went and that I hope they had a great day.
    I know last fall was nuts and one night our youngest made pb&j and even though it was 9 pm before everyone was back from different games, he said I got home early and made dinner let’s all eat together its been a busy sports week. I loved this, even older brother told him ” thanks, we have all been in different directions this week, yeah let’s eat real quick”. I think it was an hour later before they jumped and to get homework done.

  2. We have a tough time too but try our best. If we can’t all eat as a family, I do try to sit with which ever child is eating so they are not alone.

    Eating as a family was not the greatest experience for me growing up.

    1. Growing up, we all ate together when Dad got home. Even though most nights it was after 7:00, and my brother and I were really hungry because we had sports and dance after school, and mom did not encourage snacks. As a kid, that made waiting for dinner together unpleasant.

    2. We were not allowed to leave the table until everyone was finished. I found this lead to me overeating due to boredom, (thirds anyone?). I allow my kids to ask to be excused when they are done eating. Yes, they clean up after themselves.

    3. Generally, dinner was also when punishment/negative discussions happened because we were all together. I am sure we had good discussions too but I predominately remember being bored or stressed.

    So, because of my experiences, I try to loosen up. If we are all home by 5 or 6, then we eat together. If I or the kids are really hungry, we won’t wait for hubby, who arrives home as late as 8pm sometimes. My kids can ask to be excused when they are done. If they are enjoying the conversation, then they stay. And we generally don’t discuss personally negative (something with consequences) subjects at the table. Sometimes something comes up in the course of conversation that has to be addressed but we talk about it later. I like it much better than what I grew up with.

    1. That is so interesting. No, we never discuss discipline or negative subjects over dinner. And yeah, we do keep them at the table until everyone is finished, but no one really belabors dinner. I don’t think boredom is an issue – although I remember those kinds of dinners as a kid with relatives and stuff when they’d make us stay at the table. UGH. If we have company, at some point, the kids are dismissed, although they have to ask. I mean, who wants bored, sullen kids sitting around? We are usually happy to send them on their way while we sit and chat over another glass of wine. 😉

  3. We have family dinners as much as possible. During busy seasons like basketball or volleyball we do the best we can. Both my husband and I grew up with family dinners and we all enjoy this precious time together. After reading your weekly menu plans I was inspired to make my own. I started making a weekly menu and also add what event the kids have that evening. My daughter just started driver education class (Gulp) 3 nights a week and my son is involved in theater 2-4 nights a week. Adding these details to my weekly plan helps me plan crock pot meals and quicker meals when we need to eat and get out the door quickly. I started doing this last October and it has been so helpful in being organized and helped us save money in the process too. The kids know what to expect when we sit down together and have input into the weekly plan as well.

    Thanks for all you do….I don’t comment much but I enjoy your blog. Have a great day!
    Deb

  4. Thank you for making me aware of thefamilydinnerproject.org. The conversation starters look intriguing. I am looking forward to giving them a try!

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