It seems like almost every day has a few good reasons to skip family dinner: a late meeting, a basketball practice, a doctor’s appointment. More often than not, there’s something on the calendar that stands between your family and a relaxing meal together.
Often, it’s the small details that pile up and get in the way. Luckily, there are equally small things you can do to make family dinner easier.
Life is busy and may always be. But don’t wait for the calendar to clear! Instead, pick a day and go for it. Over time, finding time to have dinner together may become easier.
Here are three small ways to stay committed:
- Put dinner in your calendar just like the other appointments in your life.
- Eliminate distractions, such as cell phones, work, email and TV.
- Make the commitment out loud. Tell your friends, neighbors and coworkers. The more people who know about your dinner, the more support you will have.
Coming home late from work or rushing to sports practice happens (a lot), but with a little planning, family dinner can work on almost any night.
Here are some ways to put dinner on the table in 10 minutes:
- Over the weekend, cook a big batch of soup or a double batch of a casserole. Freeze it and simply warm up your meal for a weekday dinner.
- Rice cooker, crock pot, microwave – enough said.
- Make a list of quick go-to recipes, and keep ingredients for those on hand. Cans of beans, blocks of cheese, loaves of bread and frozen vegetables turn into a meal in minutes.
One of the keys to having dinner on busy nights is to be flexible in how you approach your meal. Here’s how:
- If dinner won’t work out on a particular day, have family breakfast or late night snack instead. Light a candle and make it special.
- Think outside the table: If you have a soccer game, bring a picnic. If your table is covered with laundry, eat on the floor.
- If schedules don’t match, stretch dinner out: Serve veggies and dip while cooking or waiting for everyone to get home for dinner. Or have dinner with one parent, and dessert with the other parent after work.
Finally, family dinner doesn’t have to happen every night to become an important part of your life. Figure out how many nights it can work for you, and enjoy that time together. After a while, it might become easier to add more nights.
Lately, I’ve been so busy at work (and the kids so hungry from their running around) that I’m just leaving the office when my family eats dinner at 5:30pm. In order to share dinnertime with them, we have “family dessert”— eating ice cream cones as we take a leisurely stroll to see the sunset. My 4-year-old daughter especially loves these walks, and I have a feeling that when I’m old, they will be among of her favorite growing-up stories. Just thinking of that makes all the hectic rush-hour commutes worth it! – John S.