“My daughter is just a different person right now. She used to be so active and bubbly. Now all she wants to do is curl up on the couch and watch Netflix. I can’t even get her to come eat dinner without a fight.”
“We used to love eating dinner together as a family. But my husband’s an ICU doctor. He’s living in our basement right now, and the kids haven’t seen him since March. It seems like there’s no energy around having dinner anymore…we don’t feel so much like a family with Daddy out of reach.”
“The news is just overwhelming…some days I just feel like crying. Then it comes time to try to get the kids away from their video games or their phones to help with dinner, and it’s like I don’t have it in me. I think they’re happy where they are. Why fight it? I don’t even know if it matters.”
Unfortunately, stories like these are pretty common these days. It does seem like 2020 has been serving up every challenge it can: a global pandemic, financial uncertainty, and political and social unrest have totally taken over our news cycle and the way we live our daily lives. While the impact of any one of these events varies from family to family, things are harder right now for many of us than we expected them to be. So it’s understandable that when it comes to basic daily routines — like dinnertime — some families are asking “does this even matter right now?”
As our co-founder, Dr. Anne Fishel, says: “I believe that we’ve never needed rituals more than we need them right now. I’m not talking about rituals as elaborate religious ceremonies. I’m talking about the quirky ways that you come together as a family, like over a meal.”
In other words: Yes, the little things — like gathering for dinner — do matter. Dinner may not cure COVID, change the world overnight or make kids (and adults) feel instantly better about the turmoil around them. But it can provide a sense of stability, safety and even fun.
If you’re feeling like mealtime is just another rut you can’t climb out of, the answer may be to change mealtime into something that’s less like your usual routine. Here are some ideas to help you shake up family meals this month:
Lots of people are feeling fatigued and discouraged right now. But one day, we hope families will be able to look back at this time and remember that the daily rituals — old and new — were what got them through the summer of 2020.
This month, we’re featuring the Carr family — a family of five whose positive attitude and great energy about family dinners is an inspiration right now!
Real Family Dinner Projects: The Carr Family
When family members resist the idea of dinner, sweeten the deal with this summery ice cream dish — and feel free to serve dessert first.
For a real change of pace at family dinner, take everyone outside and make a splash with this water-play version of Duck, Duck, Goose!
If your family is feeling stressed right now, talk about it — and how you can feel better — with these conversation starters.
2023 The Family Dinner Project