Life is busy. If you find yourself running from place to place or activity to activity with little time in between, you are not alone! Most nights by dinner time, many parents find themselves at the point where they are just trying to keep their children alive by feeding them, and haven’t had the time to process what a sit down “family dinner” would even look like. Or others may have the best of intentions of having the family unit sit down at a certain time, but end up allowing everyone to scatter through the house before the nightly routines of homework and bedtime begin.  With this being said, one of the most common questions that I get from clients is, “How important are family dinners?”.

I believe one of the reasons I get asked this so frequently is because there is something within most families that yearn for a special time together around the table. We desire for a time where we can come together and experience a sense of unity with the people closest to us. A time to talk about the good, the bad, and the mundane in our days. In addition, research shows that family dinners are associated with lower rates of depression and anxiety, and higher rates of confidence and self-esteem!  Here are a few simple things that can help you start this simple tradition with your family:

Plan Ahead

Planning is half the battle! Taking the time to have a conversation with the entire family about why and when you are wanting to start family dinners is the first step. Let everyone involved know that it is going to be a priority, and that there will be a set time for everyone to sit down. Planning a specific time and place can be helpful for everyone in pacing themselves to finish what they need to do before dinner begins!

Make It Unique to Your Family

Every family dinner is going to look different, and that is exactly what makes it special! Try implementing something every once in a while in the dinner to make it unique to the specific people in your life. Some families go around and say something good that happened in their day, some families choose to say something they are grateful for, and some families may play a little game. It’s important to remember that this does NOT have to be done every night, and that the point is to cater it to your individual family.

Adjust Expectations

In the world we live in, everything is viewed through the scope of social media. Because of this, it is easy to compare what your family does to everyone else. It’s important to keep in mind that what you see on the internet is not reality, and sometimes we have to adjust our expectations on what we think meals should look like! A family can be arguing two minutes before taking a quick selfie together, and all would appear perfect to everyone looking in. Remember that the goal of a family dinner is unity amongst those closest to you. Dinners don’t have to be a certain length of time or look a particular way. Progress, not perfection is the goal!

Get Everyone Involved

Lastly, a special way to make family dinners enjoyable for the entire family is to get EVERYONE involved. It’s not just the parents job to prep the meal and to clean up. Distribute the roles of what one person would typically do, and enjoy working together! You would be amazed at how much more enjoyable dinner can be when others have pitched in with the cooking or cleaning. Try putting some background music on and making the experience fun!

Creating a safe space for the people closest to you to enter into every evening is important, and can be a huge blessing. There’s something unique about food, and the way it can bring us together and family dinners are a simple way to check in on each other even on the craziest of days. Try starting this simple tradition with your family this week!