Most families nowadays are finding it hard to carve out time to be together. Dinner presents the best opportunity for us to relax, reconnect, tell stories, relive the day’s adventures and build lasting connections with our children.
As a father, my wife and children are a priority in my life and in spite of our conflicting schedules and activities, I do my best to spend as much time with them as I can. I believe that eating dinner together gives my kids a sense of structure, belonging and helps us all develop a sense of who we are as a family.
Research affirms the importance of shared meal times. It turns out that children from families that regularly sit down to dinner together are less likely to engage in disordered eating and have lower rates of obesity, substance abuse, depression and teen pregnancy. Additionally, younger children’s vocabularies also benefit as they pick up new words from the stories told over the dinner table.
So how do you create a dinner hour that everyone in your family can look forward to? Here’s what I do:
Nurture Yourself First.
You can’t hope to nurture and care for your family if you you’re completely worn out yourself. Once you get home from work, take 10-15 minutes to wind down before preparing the evening meal. That way you’ll be more relaxed and accommodating to your family’s needs.
Turn Off The TV, Radio and Phones.
The goal of family dinners is to spend special moments with your family so resist the temptation to watch TV or listen to the radio at the same time. I go a step further and switch off my phone so that I can be fully in the moment. After all, the world will still be there an hour later.
Get Everyone To Pitch In.
Meals are always more fun when everyone lends a hand. Getting my kids to help prepare meals not only allows me to teach them handy skills, but also provides time to cultivate a valuable father-child relationship. Allowing your kids to occasionally pick what to eat goes a long way towards making everyone feel involved.
Make The Discussions Interesting.
Rather than have adults talk about their jobs all the time, try coming up with interesting conversation starters. For instance, asking everyone about their day can give you fascinating things to discuss. Alternatively, you can come up with a fun game to get smaller children talking.
Really Listen To Your Family.
We parents can sometimes be really poor listeners. We tend to forget that our kids have opinions too. Learning to listen to what our children have to say gives us a better understanding of who they are. This is important especially for adolescents as you can identify any major teen problems they’re facing and address them accordingly.
Enjoying dinner with your family regularly might call for sacrifices on your part but it’s always time well spent.
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