6 Ways to Bring Back Family Dinners

So I recently wrote about one of my greatest sources of mom-guilt: not eating dinner at the table as a family. Since I wrote that post, our family has made a concerted effort to eat together every night at the table. Here are 6 things I’ve noticed that have helped us stick to it:

1. We have made it a priority. Regardless of what our schedules are like on any given day, we’ve worked hard to prioritize that time. Some nights have been easier than others, but as a whole, just TRYING has worked wonders. {Who knew?!}

2. We’ve had to keep the table clean. Ummm… Maybe I’m revealing more sources of mom-guilt here, but my table has long been a family “desk” for us to keep homework, computers, unopened mail, clean clothes, toys… You get the idea. But prioritizing family dinners has forced us to prep the table. I have found that if I keep the table cleaned off, I’m more likely to follow through with dinner together there.

3. We’ve enlisted the kids’ help. Honestly, the kids LOVE family dinners now. They look forward to it. They are happy to help set the table, and, opposite of what I’d imagined, they run to the table when they’re called. I truly believed it would be an epic struggle. I’m pleasantly surprised to say it is not at all. We’ve also had some amazing “everyone pitch in” moments to help clean the table after, and that has been an unexpected added benefit!

4. We’ve had intentional conversations. Every night, we ask each family member to share one good thing about their day. Then we take turns asking “Would You Rather” questions and the kids LOVE it. I can tell that “Would You Rather” is going to get old soon, but I’m preparing some faith-building questions I’ve compiled from Natasha Crain’s book, Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side. In her book, she offers 40 faith conversations we should have with our kids. The book is fascinating so far, and I’m excited to report on those conversations as we eventually begin to have them. {Any suggestions for fun dinner table games? Send them my way!}

5. We cook dinner.  Ok, so you need to know that I LOVE to cook…..When I’m not busy. Obviously, that love for cooking began to subside tremendously when I became a mom. Almost 9 years in to motherhood, I’m really OVER it. {And all the Mommas said, “Amen.”}  I’m not kidding. Send me new chicken recipes because I’ve exhausted pinterest. {Yup. Give me a trophy or something because I don’t think there’s a boneless chicken breast recipe on there I HAVENT tried.} So with that being said, part of prioritizing family dinner has meant prioritizing…. DINNER. I have noticed that if I cook, we are much more likely to sit down at the table and eat. If I order out or call leftovers, it’s a lot harder. Not impossible, just harder. Somehow, I’ve enjoyed cooking a little more too. It’s like there’s a reward waiting for me when it’s done: these smiling faces!

6. We have had to be flexible in our expectations. The picture in my head from childhood makes it seem like dinners lasted for an hour or two every night. I’m sure that’s not true at all, but I’ve learned that my expectations of when and how long dinner lasts need to be flexible. Some nights it’s impossible to eat before 6pm. Other nights it’s impossible to eat after 5pm because we have places to be. Some nights the kids have long stories to share, but usually our dinners last 10-15 minutes. The kids are itching to get back outside before bedtime, and for my husband and I,  “adulting” requires evenings full of household chores or… You know. Blogging.

So much of what I expected family dinners to look like has not been reality, however: it’s safe to say that our family dinners are now routine. I’m sure we won’t always be as faithful as we’ve been so far, but it’s no longer just me attempting to gather as a family.  They are all on board now and it’s been a blast. What do you do to make family dinners a priority?  Is this the norm for your family?  What would you add to this list?  I’d love to hear any helpful advice!

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