Making Dinner a Priority

I love to sit down to a meal with my family. It might be the only time all day that we're all gathered together in a place where we can talk and laugh together. I truly believe that dinnertime fosters communication within a family.

Yet, too often, dinner takes a back seat to activities, whether it's the girls' activities or ours. When school starts, so do all of our activities. Dinner becomes a rushed affair with everyone grabbing something different on their way to someplace else.

The dinner table should provide our family with an opportunity to recharge and reconnect. It should be a time to share our days and our thoughts. Whether your family likes to tell funny jokes, discuss the day or play dinner games, fostering conversation and joy around the table is an important part of keeping the members of our family in touch with each other.

I know a family meal every night is tough. Both my girls practice their sports twice a week. I have meetings that I attend in the evenings, and so does my husband. On top of that, we have church, homework and music lessons. Squeezing in dinner when everyone can attend is tough.

Yet, studies show that families that make the effort to sit down to an evening meal together have better adjusted kids -- kids who are less likely to get into serious trouble. Our dinners don't have to be elaborate. Proverbs 15:17 says, "Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred." They simply have to be intentional.

We have to intentionally set out to make dinner a priority in our homes. We have to make the effort to set aside the time for our families to sit down together, eat a meal, communicate and love each other. And sometimes that's harder than it sounds. It takes work. It takes planning. But it is so worth it.

If you struggle to gather your family for dinner every night, try some of these tips to make dinner an important time in your home:

Set the expectation. Let everyone know that dinnertime is changing. Make sure all the members of your household know that their presence is expected at dinner.

Be flexible. Busy schedules require flexibility. Be prepared to move dinner time to a time when everyone can be there. If that means you eat at 4 or at 9, then so be it. The important thing is to get everyone to the table, not to have a set, formal dinnertime. There are a lot of nights around here when dinner is at an odd time. Pick the time that day when the most people in your family can be around the table at the same time.

Remove distractions. We have a rule at our house that no toys can be at the table. I try to put the newspaper away before dinner. The only thing that's on our dinner table is food and napkins, which creates the opportunity for conversations.

Create a routine. Figure out what your family most enjoys doing at the dinner table. Some families like to share their days with each other. Have a set of questions that everyone has to answer: What's the funniest thing that happened today? What's the best thing that happened today? What's the worst thing that happened today? Other families like to discuss current events. Some families enjoy playing games. If you're stumped for things to talk about at dinner, check out our free Dinner Discussions to get the conversational ball rolling. You can find new ones every month on our Free Stuff page.

Avoid using dinnertime to air disputes. Make dinnertime sacred. Leave arguments and disagreements alone. There's nothing less pleasant than a dinner table filled with strife. Declare the dinner table to be a temporary peace zone when members of your family are unhappy with one another.

Dinner can be one of the best times of the day for your busy family. It can foster community and joy. We just have to make the extra effort to get everyone to the table together.

Linking up today with Denise in Bloom.