I believe that one of the best ways to stay connected with your children as they grow up is to have dinner together every night. This is especially true during the teen years. As your children get older and become more independent this becomes more difficult. Sports and after school activities with children going in different directions can also add to the challenge. Before you know it, everyone is having dinner at different times and the concept of family dinner is lost.
Family dinner is a chance to talk and visit with one another. Sometimes conversation can just flow. Have this time be sacred. Say grace. Eat at the table, not the sofa or counter. Turn off the TV. Ban the cell phones and Ipads. Homework can wait. Group texts can wait.
Although it is challenging, it is not impossible to still have dinner together most days of the week. There is no mistaking that the Family Dinner has lasting benefits. The challenge comes in making it happen. With families becoming busier than ever, dinners won't just "happen", you have to plan for them. The challenge: Plan your dinners for one week.
- Step 1: Download and print the Menu Planner and Shopping List found here: Download Menu Planner-PDF
- Step 2: Look at your calendar for the week and fill in "What's Up" for each day. Write anything here that will affect your dinner for that day.
- Step 3: Now determine what time dinner should be on each day. Consider "What's Up" and fill in the time that the family can all be together. An after school game may mean a late dinner. An evening meeting may mean an early dinner.
- Step 4: Decide menu considering "What's Up" and "Time". Planning for a left-over day calls for preparing a meal that is easy to reheat the day before. A late dinner calls for a quick cooking dinner. See example below.
- Step 5: Make your shopping list and shop for the week! You will be amazed how smoothly the week will go with a little extra planning time. You have just made Family Dinner happen.
In the example of a week above (taken from my real life), I filled in "What's Up" and realized that Tuesday would not work for dinner together because of my daughter's volleyball game away in another city. I would be away with her and we would pick up dinner out. The boys at home would need something easy to reheat. So then, I planned spaghetti for Monday, so there would be easy leftovers for Tuesday. Wednesday was a night meeting so this meant that dinner would have to be early. Thursday was another game, but a home game meant we could still be home for dinner, it would just have to be late. I planned a stir-fry that is easy to prepare. I made a note to myself to do the prep work early.
Working Mom vs. Stay At Home Mom: I like to plan only Monday through Thursday and shop on Monday. Later in the week, I have a better idea of what is happening over the weekend and I plan and shop again. When I was a working mom, I planned the entire week and shopped on the weekend. I also had a plan to get off work at a decent time every-other-day to make dinner. The off days I could stay at work later and have leftovers. Even if you bring home take-out, the important thing is to eat together.
Grace is another time to hold your teen's hand and have another "touch" opportunity (like hugs).
Be the parent. Have your children be home for dinner at the designated time.
Let the bonding begin.