If you really want everyone to enjoy dinnertime it’s important to make family meals fun and not something to dread. Use these ideas to get them to the table
If you are striving to bring family meals back to your family, there are a few things that you should – and should not – do as you are getting the family used to sit around the table again. Not sure why you should bring the family together for meals? Read 11 Reasons to Eat Together as a Family.
Just like when you bring everyone together for a big family holiday dinner, you should be mindful of topics that are likely to get people riled up. Consider staying away from the three biggies during dinner.
- Don’t talk about grades with your kids. Family dinner is not the time to bring you that failing math grade.
- Steer clear upsetting issues like politics unless you and your family find joy in debating politics because you’re mostly in agreement.
- Religion can also be a tender topic if there are family members who are not participating with the rest of the family
Of course, each family is different but if people are avoiding dinner, and feel stressed out, you want to change how you do it. For an in-depth look, try this article from The Spruce, Dinner Conversation Etiquette. Let’s look at a few ideas to help.
You Set the Example
If you want your family to be happy about dinnertime you need to be happy too. If you’re always upset by it or acting stressed out everyone else will be too. If you’re not getting enough help then speak up, but don’t show your moodiness during dinnertime.
You want the event to be enjoyable so be sure to let go of whatever is bothering you so you can move on from it. Everyone will appreciate the relaxed atmosphere around the table.
Use Conversation Starters
Once you sit down for dinner you will want to start your conversations. If your family isn’t used to this new routine, it’s better to offer a conversation starter. One way to do this is to write some topics up that you know each person likes to discuss on small slips of paper then remove one from the jar each night.
After just one topic is chosen you can let the conversation flow even if it goes off topic to another topic organically. Pull another topic if everything dies down.
Let Everyone Have a Turn
It can be hard for the quiet members of the family to get their chance to join in discussions if you let the louder members monopolize the conversation. To draw in the quiet ones ask them questions directly such as, “What do you think about that?” to get them to talk.
It can even help to talk to the louder ones alone asking them to give the others a chance to talk. Explain why and they’ll be happy to help their quieter family members get a turn.
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Avoid Arguments at Dinnertime
One thing you do not want to encourage at dinnertime is loud, mean, fights. It can be harder if your family has a lot of differences when it comes to politics and religion. And yes, sometimes teenagers have different ideas than their parents. Don’t use dinnertime to browbeat them into submission to your beliefs and ideas. Instead, use dinnertime as a time demonstrate the best behavior.
Even if your kids aren’t perfect you’re the parent, so you can be better. Also, don’t bring up issues such as punishments, school problems, grades, and so forth at the table if they’re going to make anyone feel bad.
Manners Are Great But Not the Point
While you do want to use the opportunity to teach your children manners and how to eat properly, family dinnertime is mostly so that you can enjoy a healthy meal together and talk to each other in a happy environment.
Do teach good manners, but don’t correct every little infraction or force them to behave as if it’s a formal dinner. You can have a formal dinner occasionally to help bolster those manners, but on a nightly basis let go a little and enjoy the casual environment at home. Even picnics count as family meal time!
The worst thing you can do is turn dinnertime into TV time every single night. It’s okay to have a fun TV dinner night in the living room occasionally such as Friday night movie night (or pick your night) but the point is not to do it every day.
Remember the point is to enjoy each other’s company. If you’re looking at the TV, or your phone, you’re not going to spend that time together. It’s also important to turn off your phone if you are prone to be interrupted too.
Set the Mood
One thing that is nice to do is have low playing music, and mood lighting such as candles. This can set the stage for a calm dinner for all ages. Not only that, your own mood can set the mood too. If you’re relaxed and happy your family will feel it. If you’re stressed and moody they’ll feel that too.
Even if it’s hard to do, setting the example will rub off on your own kids too. While feelings are okay, sometimes letting everyone always know your feelings is too much.
Set a Meal Time & Time Limit
Another thing that can cut down on stress is setting the meal time and then set a time limit for eating the meal. Everyone should eat for at least 30 minutes, but you can make it longer than that if you want to. You need enough time to enjoy the meal, and the conversation, and then to clean up too.
In most cases, you can cook, eat, talk, and clean up in 1.5 to 2 hours every night. This will get easier, and faster, as you practice joining together in the preparations.
Change the Location Up
Family mealtime doesn’t have to be at the dinner table. It can be on the living room floor, at a park picnic table, or in your backyard. It can also be at grandma’s or even a family restaurant that’s not one that rushes you out and that’s easy to talk in.
Switching up dinnertime to various locations can make it even more fun and something for everyone to look forward to.
Don’t Use Food as Punishment
The worst thing you can do when it comes to getting kids to enjoy dinnertime is to use it as a time for punishment. Don’t make kids eat all their food to get dessert, and don’t make them miss dinner due to behavior. The only exception is if they’re misbehaving in a disruptive way during dinner.
One way to deal with this is to set up a table nearby for the disruptive person to enjoy their meal if that should happen.
Family dinnertime should be something to look forward to. If you plan it right everyone will be very much looking forward to sitting down for dinnertime as a family. Even the random guest that your children invite will enjoy it and perhaps ask their family to do it at home too.