Starting a Family Dinner Routine for Back to School
During the summer, many families change their dinnertime habits — meals might become more casual, the schedule might be looser and the rules and expectations that govern school year dinners might relax a little bit. But as you plan for the back-to-school season, you’re probably mindful that family dinner needs to find its place among all the other items crowding the calendar. Here’s how to start — or resume — a school year family dinner routine that works for everyone.
Remember why family dinners are important to you.
Why is it important to keep family dinner on your to-do list? Maybe it’s the research that shows there are many social, emotional and physical benefits to having dinner together. Maybe it’s that your family doesn’t have many chances to gather beyond dinnertime. Maybe it’s a chance for you to work on healthier eating habits together, or something else totally unique to your family. Whatever it is, try to keep your reasons for family dinner in focus, and make sure to share them with everyone in your household so you all understand why dinnertime is a priority.
Every family will have somewhat different rules surrounding dinner, and that’s okay! Your mealtime doesn’t have to look like your neighbor’s. Especially with older children and teens, having a family discussion about what the expectations will be can make mealtimes more pleasant and positive.
Big picture areas to discuss include:
Where will we eat? Is it okay to eat in front of the TV, or not? If so, how often? If not, why not?
How will we manage technology at the table? Are phones and tablets allowed? If so, what level of use is okay? If not, why not?
Are there conversational rules we want to follow as a family, such as no interrupting, staying positive, or taking turns choosing topics?
How should family members react when there’s a food they don’t enjoy? Is there an alternative available, or not?
What jobs can each family member do to help make mealtimes happen?
It may not be every night and it may not even be dinner — remember to think of alternatives like family breakfasts, late-evening snacks, walking desserts and weekend lunches to gather everyone for food, fun and conversation on a schedule that works for you. But make the commitment and set the dates. It takes time to develop a habit you can stick to, so plan for success!
Looking for a way to keep track of your meals? Sign up for our free Dinner Tonight program and get access to our Dinner Tracker, where you can record how many meals you’re having together as you work towards your goals! »
Family of the Month
The Earl family of This Star Won’t Go Out are special friends of The Family Dinner Project. We’re thrilled to share their family dinner story this month in honor of Esther Day, the August 3rd “alternative Valentine’s Day” that celebrates the life of their daughter Esther!