If you are like our family, everyone in your household is running in different directions at mealtimes. The kids have lessons, husband is working and for me, there are often things to attend around the dinner hour. However family mealtimes have always been something that we have tried to implement; especially now with busy teenagers that will be moving on soon.
Despite hectic schedules, we try to make the time to sit together around the table—or at least the kitchen bar—a few times per week to eat and have a conversation. When they can, our kids often invite friends over for dinner too, so we know that this is a ritual they enjoy. But it is still not always easy to gather the family together.
These are some of my tips to make family mealtimes happen in a busy household:
Be flexible. It doesn’t always have to be dinner
Because of scheduling, sometimes our family dinners just don’t happen. But we will all sit together and have a big breakfast on the weekend, or even a leisurely late afternoon lunch. It’s the time spent together that is important and we try to still dine with the same rules—encouraging manners and respect at the table.
Encourage your kids to invite friends
Some of my fondest teenage memories were eating over at my then-boyfriend’s home and learning his family’s dining rituals. I tried foods that I had never tasted, talked about politics I wasn’t aware of and learned a different style of serving meals—they were quite traditional. Those things served me well in many situations that were to come in both business and relationships.
Give the kids an opportunity to make the meal
Most teenagers have had an introduction to foods in school and creating a meal, or at least planning it, is the perfect thing to get them involved. When they’re a part of the process, generally they will be more apt to engage and do it again.
Simplify the food preparation
Sunday family dinners for my spouse’s family often meant an afternoon of preparation and then plenty of dishes to tend with afterwards. Keep the menu simple and plan ahead, so that it easy to duplicate and your family will be encouraged to participate more often.
Keep the conversation enjoyable
When you’re all together it may be easy to fall into discussing family issues at dinnertime, but save that for another time. Keep the dinner table a no-phone-zone and create an environment where your kids feel like talking about social events or healthy debates. Talking to your teens over dinner is the best way to gain their trust.
Mealtimes are challenging for most families, especially with many competing distractions outside the home. Plan to gather your family for mealtimes a few times a week. Even schedule it like you would a date-night. Creating a space for connection, comfort and support is one the best things for growing teenagers.
And ultimately, talking to your teens over dinner is the best way to gain their trust.