family fun

Make Dinner Count: Turn Meal Time into a Positive Family Experience

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Make meal time a happy family experience. As a single mother with three small children at home, dinner used to feel like a lot of work.  My three kids often met my efforts with something like this: “I don’t want green beans again. She got the pink bowl yesterday and it’s my turn. She stole my napkin. I’m not hungry. Why can’t I put my feet on the table? It’s not fair.” It started to feel easier to feed them all a bowl of granola and eat a peanut butter sandwich by myself after they all went to bed.

I never felt good about it.  I know that families that eat together are healthier, happier, and more connected.  When I realized that my children were missing  those special family meals, I decided to change my attitude about dinner.

For nearly a year now, we have stayed committed to making dinner time an important family ritual. From my experience along the way, I have collected some tips and tricks for using dinner time to strengthen family relationships.

Tips For Strengthening Family Relationships at Dinner:

1. Involve kids in the preparation.  Meal time is bound to feel more stressful if you are doing it all solo.  There are tasks for kids of all ages - even my not quite two-year-old can help lay out the napkins and silverware on the table.  Not only will you get some help in the kitchen, the kids will love feeling involved.

2. Meet in the middle.  There is nothing worse than working to prepare a meal for your family only to have everyone complain about the food. While I don’t think it is always possible to cater your dinner menu to everyone’s tastes, you can meet in the middle.  Make sure that there is something on the table that everyone will eat.  If the main dish isn’t a hit with every child, you can still feel good knowing that there is a side dish, or fruit, or vegetable that can be enjoyed by all without a struggle.

3. Connect. Dinner time may be the only time of the day that everyone is together in the same place.  Use this time to connect.  Share the experiences of your day, your plans and hopes for the future, your feelings of gratitude and happiness, even your worries and concerns.  Start the conversation and encourage everyone to join in.

4. Celebrate the Everyday.  I love making dinner a “daily celebration” by adding simple, but special touches - candles, special place mats and tablecloths, fancy napkins.  Whether it’s delivery pizza or homemade tortellini, these simple touches remind us all of how treasured our time together is.

5. Take a breath. I have found that taking a few moments at the beginning of our meal to breath and give thanks invites a spirit of togetherness and gratitude to our gathering.  Whether it’s a prayer, a moment of silence, or a simple word of thanks, it’s a reminder that despite all that has happened in our day, dinner is a time of peaceful togetherness to be enjoyed.

How do you turn meal time into a positive family experience? How do you make meal time special for your family?

Allison Ruth, mama to three hungry girls, blogs at Some the Wiser where she takes life as it comes and tries to learn a little something as she goes. Whether she’s baking bread, sewing, or contemplating the fate of socks gone missing in the laundry, she looks for the peace and creativity life offers to everyone who is paying attention. Living life deliberately isn’t easy, she admits, but it helps when you have good things to eat.
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