Dinner can be a chaotic time for many parents. Often, it’s simply easier to turn on the television, but that’s not really quality family time. As an alternative, turn off the television, call everyone to the table, and have a real meal. With a little effort, dinner can be a time to look forward to, rather than simply a boring ritual.
Those parents who prepare dinner alone are missing out on valuable time with their children. Instead of having everyone scattered while one parent prepares supper, try turning meal preparation into a team event. Younger children can set the table, while slightly older children can easily prepare a salad. Teenagers can do almost everything an adult can do. Giving everyone a task will speed things along, and give everyone a chance to share little tidbits about their day.
Let the children make up the dining table. Use no-iron napkins, and let the kids decide what kind of centerpiece to use. If they just want a paper flower or even a favorite toy as a centerpiece, let them have it. And remember to be a little flexible when it comes to where you dine. If your child wants to eat at the patio table, or even have a picnic on the lawn, indulge them if you can, weather permitting, of course.
Try to have dinner at the same time every night, no matter what. If there are occasions where dinner must be later, perhaps because of an extracurricular activity, then plan that out ahead of time. If possible, serve a portion of the meal before you leave, or even in the car. Call this an ‘appetizer’ and younger children will certainly feel special.
Take Your Time
Don’t let dinner become an eat-and-run event in your household. Dinner should take at least thirty minutes. This way, not only does everyone get the chance to sit still and talk to each other, but there’s some respect shown to the cook. If someone can take the time to prepare a meal, then the rest of the family should be able to sit still and appreciate the meal. For very young children, try giving them toys in the high chair, or placing them in a playpen beside the table. Don’t let them wander off, but impress upon them the importance of meal times.
Play some quiet music in the background while you eat. To be fair, assign everyone a specific dinner and let them pick the music. But don’t let them turn it up too loud. The point of dinner is to be able to have a conversation.
Make sure your family spends dinnertime together. This will give everyone a chance to express their thoughts and feelings, and catch up on the affairs of the day. Give everyone, and especially, every child, a chance to speak and to be the center of attention, and dinner will quickly become an event to look forward to in your home.