Family dinner should be a fun, rewarding experience most of the time. After all, dinnertime is supposed to be the take-a-breath moment in our busy days, when we can sit down together and enjoy the company of the people we love most.
But family dinner also involves family, and families — even the most close-knit and loving of them — sometimes have conflicts and tension to work out. Right now, many families we know are feeling more negativity than usual. With a big election on the horizon, conversations at the national level haven’t been exactly civil, and that tone might be finding its way to our dinner tables as well. Add to that the fact that the holidays will be here before we know it, with their simultaneous joy and stress (not to mention the possibility of extended family dramas). You might well be feeling like the table’s set more for conflict than for relaxation.
Take a deep breath. It’s going to be okay! Research shows that families who have regular dinners together experience lower levels of stress and anxiety than those who don’t, so you’re already taking the first step towards keeping things relaxed. Of course, those benefits are more likely to happen if you keep the tension away from the table, so try these tips to kick conflict to the curb:
Dr. Anne Fishel has six valuable pieces of wisdom for families who are regularly struggling to keep the mood at the table fun and positive. Learn why manners aren’t as important as you think, why some topics aren’t table topics, and more.
Nothing relieves stress like a good laugh! Try tongue twisters, silly faces, or liven things up with a joke jar.
Benjamin Franklin used to participate in a “self-improvement club” with his friends, where they’d talk about a set of “virtues” they believed were important to happiness and civility. TFDP Executive Director Lynn Barendsen tried out some of Franklin’s ideas at her own family dinner table. You might find that a dose of old-fashioned civility is just what your family needs, too!
This month, we’re featuring the Hawkins family from West Virginia, who are overcoming common family dinner challenges using creative ideas to help them stay connected!
Enjoy the flavors of fall with an easy fruit and vegetable side dish.
Nothing breaks the tension quite like a good playlist. Make music part of your family dinners!
Minimize tension and maximize connection with questions from our “Interview” section — they’re sure to keep family members talking!