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Family Dinner Night
By Joan Whetzel
Many families these days seem to operate on hectic schedules. Always running off to PTA meetings, soccer practice, cheerleading competitions, and… It gets so a family hardly has time to see each other anymore. Family dinner night, is one way to keep in touch with each other. It doesn't have to be difficult to arrange or involve an expensive, fancy meal. Burgers or fried chicken will do just as good as a full Thankgsgiving turkey dinner with all the trimmings.
Choose a Day
First, choose one day of the week. It could even be Saturday or Sunday lunch, right after religious services. It could be Thursday night supper - the one night when nobody has anything going on. It doesn't matter when the chosen day is, just choose one. Make it the same day every week, and make sure everyone shows up. This is your time to reconnect. It's an opportunity to share the meal planning and preparation (The kids may be more enthusiastic, and more likely to show up, if they get some say in the meal planning and preparation). Besides if the kids learn how to cook in the process, they'll pick up a valuable life skill for when they move out on their own. Some day.
What to Make
If your family has some favorite foods, try to include them. No, all the favorites don't have to show up on the table at one time, but do try to get something on the table that they like. Teach the kids how to make their favorites, they'll appreciate it later. If the meal time feels like it's getting stuck in a rut, add a new menu item from time to time as an accompaniment to the foods they like. Pretty soon, the new items will become favorites too. Also try to keep it a balanced meal (all the food groups) as much as possible. You want to keep your family healthy too. If time is limited this week, it's okay to order in Chinese or KFC or Pizza.
Don't make the discussions serious, and no punishments are to be doled out. If you need to have a private conversation with one of your family members, save it for a later, when you can actually have a private conversation. Make family dinners a time for positive family discussion. After all, you want to make this a positive experience so they all want to keep coming back to the family table. Ask questions like what did you do today? And respectfully listen to everyone's answer. Start off the conversation by telling what you did today. Tell jokes or "a funny thing happened…" stories. Talk about future plans (vacations, weddings, Janie's starring role in the school play, Johnny's graduation) or anything you'd like to do some time in the future.
This is not an obligation, but it should be a priority. Making time for family now, sets a good example for your kids, gives them a family value that they will want to hang on to when their kids start growing up. They'll remember the fun times around the family dinner table, and want to continue the tradition.