Find togetherness at family dinner

5 Top Tips on Making Family Dinners Less Stressful and More Fun

Family dinner is a time to come together and bond.

Modern life is complicated, making today’s families busier than ever before. It can be pretty easy to forego family dinner instead of wrangling everyone together to share a meal and a moment’s peace. 

But the truth is the importance of family dinner shouldn’t be overlooked, and although organizing yours can be a stressful affair at times, there are ways to reduce that stress and make family meals enjoyable.

The Importance of Family Dinner

As a parent, you likely know just how unpredictable life is, how fast it moves, and how easy it is to let things that should be cherished pass you by if you don’t make time for them. One day, your kids are in diapers, and the next, they’re heading off to college—or at least that’s how it feels. 

You can’t do anything about the passing of time, but you can make the most of the time you have by placing emphasis on family dinner.

Sitting down for dinner at least once a week—but hopefully more often than that—can help your family create precious memories and strengthen bonds with one another while also promoting a healthier lifestyle and providing your children with a sense of security and stability.

It becomes particularly important to put forth a greater effort to maintain a strong connection with your children as they enter their teens and become less dependent on you. Creating space for shared family meals can be a great way to do that.  

5 Ways to Make Your Family Dinners Fun for Everyone

It can be hard to find enthusiasm for yet another obligation on your already busy schedule, and the rest of your family is likely to feel the same way on certain days, but if you follow these 5 tips, you can drastically reduce the stress associated with family dinners and make them a cherished part of the week.

1. Make it part of your routine.

Pick certain days of the week that are designated family dinner days so there’s no confusion and everyone is able to get into a rhythm. People tend to like a routine rather than randomness.

Of course, you don’t need to be overly stringent about the days. You can always move them around to suit everyone’s schedule or cancel if need be. There are benefits to eating together even only a few times a week.

2. Don’t make food the focus.

It may sound counterintuitive, but family dinner shouldn’t really be about food, or at least it shouldn’t be all about food. Focusing too much on food during family meals, and especially on picky eating, has been found to lead to mealtime anxiety and disordered eating as children grow older.

But that’s not all there is to it. Placing emphasis on the food can take away from the truly important aspect of family meals: togetherness. Enjoy your meals together, of course, but focus more on one another so you can get the most out of your precious family time.  

3. Put the phones away.

This one is easier said than done. One of the trickiest aspects of modern parenting is prying your children—and let’s be honest, yourselves, as well—away from the various glowing screens so you can experience non-virtual reality once in a while.

Screen time is all right in moderation, but moderation is tough for pretty much all kids, so you’re going to have to set some boundaries if you want to do family dinner right. No phones at the table, period, is your best bet.

4. Make a game out of it.

Great conversation won’t always come flowing right out of you and your family, especially when you’re tired from a long day or tough week. That’s why it can be a good idea to get creative about your conversation starters. For example, ask a question, then go around the table and allow everyone to answer.

You can also play some dinner table games to ensure everyone is engaged and having fun.

5. Meal-plan to reduce stress.

Coming up with new recipes every week to avoid monotony can be stressful, particularly if you don’t think ahead. It’s always best to map out your meals well ahead of time and ensure you’ve got everything you need before family dinner day rolls around.

Remember that it doesn’t need to be fancy or perfect. Some of the best family-friendly recipes are incredibly simple. And when you keep things easy, you can involve the kids in the planning, prepping, and even cooking.

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