A few weeks ago, my family’s dinner routine crashed and burned. My husband got sick and was on the couch for a week. My older son had so many commitments that the only time we really saw each other was in the car, driving to the next thing. And my younger son was fitted with a mouthful of orthodontic appliances that kept him off all solid foods for almost 10 days.
All of that was stressful enough, but what surprised me was how much I missed dinner. Sure, we were all eating – or timidly sipping smoothies, or trying to keep down a handful of Saltines and ginger ale – but we weren’t having dinner. Each evening, I felt restless, unsure of what to do without our usual routine. And then came the magical Sunday when my husband felt better, my kid could chew again, and we were all home.
While I put the finishing touches on our meal, the 13-year-old cheerfully lit candles and set out plates. The 16-year-old helped with small kitchen tasks. My husband pulled up a special festive playlist he’d been curating. And when all four of us sat down at the table, there was almost a collective sigh of relaxation and relief. My older son piled food on his plate, looked around, and said, “I’ve been needing this.”
What happened next was a totally ordinary meal. But I noticed that everyone seemed happier than they had in quite a long time – and the mood lasted all night, even through a backed-up kitchen drain and some brotherly squabbling about who was taking out the garbage. The kids even hung around with us for an evening of alternating between the football game and The Sound of Music. And all of it started at the table.
I’m not suggesting that every family dinner in our house turns out this way. We’re real people, not a Normal Rockwell painting. But the experience was a great reminder of the actual impact family dinner – or the lack of it – can have on us. After just a week and a half of missing mealtimes, the chance to sit down together, eat, and connect again was completely transformative. So as we begin this New Year, I think it’s a good time to remember that every week in 2023 is an opportunity to recommit to family dinners. Even if it’s just once a week, that’s 52 chances to make a connection. I can’t think of a better goal for the year ahead.
Need some help to get started? Try these tips:
For even more inspiration, you can check out our ultimate playbook of weekly dinner ideas – Eat, Laugh, Talk: The Family Dinner Playbook. Our friends at Familius have extended their special offer on the book through January, so you can bring home 52 weeks of food, fun, and conversation for 2023! Enter the code FamilyDinner at checkout to get 30% off your copy. Enjoy!
Put this easy meal in the rotation this year (and maybe teach someone else to cook it, too)! You can also use chicken, tofu, or salmon if you prefer.
Start a new weekly dinner tradition for 2023 with the Jar of Good Things!
The New Year is a good time to talk about goals. Try these collections of conversation starters to kick things off!