For many, any given weekday evening is spent shuttling children to and from extra curricular activities. Family dinnertime often happens in the car or on the go, leaving very little face time.
Certainly activities and extra learning experiences can be fun for our children. In fact, the physical exercise may be important since many children find their playtime or recess has been cut back to mere minutes a day.
This particular post isn’t to discourage out of school activities. (Stay tuned though, as we will be discussing the lives of “overscheduled” children in the near future.) This post is to encourage “family dinnertime” and why it can be so important.
One of the many ways we can stay connected to our children, and to our family as a whole, is by talking to each other. Family dinnertime is a great place for this to happen.
Here are some of our favorite key elements of a family dinnertime:
Family = Defined by you. Your family isn’t necessarily those you are related to by blood. Family is who you decide it is.
Dinner = Food, period. If the thought of making a meal on a weeknight is overwhelming, don’t stress it. Family dinner doesn’t require a 4-course meal. Order a pizza, heat a frozen dinner, grab take out tacos. The food is just the nourishment. Make the experience as least stressful as possible.
NO DEVICES. We can’t stress this enough. No devices during family dinnertime, parents/adults, this goes for you as well! It’s hard to really pay attention if you’re constantly checking emails, text messages and Instagram. Whatever it is, it can wait.
Ask questions. A great start – Ask each person to share something about their day. If you are met with a bunch of “my day was fine”, or “I don’t know”, ask different questions. Don’t give up! One of my favorites is “Who did you sit with at lunch?” It requires an actual answer, and perhaps leads to even more conversation.
Listen. It may be hard at first to ask questions, get answers, and feel like you are really learning anything at all about the people at your table, but listen. Leave judgements at the door. The point of family dinnertime is to feel connected to those in your family. Offering a judgment to someone’s sharing is the quickest way to ensure they won’t share with you again.
Recently, I visited with a mom about her family dinnertime. She started to notice that her son began to only share the bad parts of his day or talk about only negative things. She wanted to be supportive, but felt that he was suddenly just noticing the bad all the time, and that concerned her.
We made a suggestion to have her son find at least one thing he could share that was good each day. A few weeks later she noted that it had actually starting working. She even asked him how he felt about sharing both good and bad things. What he said really surprised her.
He told her that he liked talking but that his favorite part was that sometimes when he told her the bad things, he got a hug from her. Turns out, he still really liked, needed and wanted hugs. Something she may have never known if they hadn’t started sharing during family dinnertime.
Try just one day this week to spend time eating as a family and learning about each other. At the very least you might be mildly entertained, and maybe you might learn something really spectacular about a loved one.
Pace Counseling Group is a professional counseling firm located in San Antonio, Texas. We are focused on continuously improving the quality of life for our clients and their families. To learn more, visit us at Pace Counseling Group or call (210) 481-3727.