Family dinners are probably my favorite time of the day. When I was little, it was just how we did things. It wasn’t necessarily my favorite time of the day back then, but I didn’t know any different. As I got older, I really started to appreciate the quality time and conversations we would have over the dinner table. And even now, when we all get together for Sunday brunch at my parents’, we will hang out for up to an hour after we finish eating! The only reason we leave is because of Anabelle’s nap time. And now that I’m a parent, I am really starting to see the incredible benefits of eating together as a family!
1. Quality, unplugged conversations
Dinner is the perfect time to catch up and talk about your day. As a kid, I remember this was when we’d not only share stories, but we could also ask questions, share good stories, bad stories, and learn. It was a place where I felt comfortable talking about anything. I definitely want that around our table for our daughters! Now-a-days, I spend dinner either listening to Anabelle tell her Daddy about some of the things she did, or Kevin and I start day dreaming about projects we want to do, venting about stressful situations, and sharing funny stories. And with the level of technology in our everyday lives now, it’s nice to have a place to talk and look into each other’s eyes without the distraction of our phones lighting up with notifications.
2. Teach kids to sit
I don’t think it’s always natural to sit and chat around the table. Anabelle sometimes gets bored and likes to get up and play when she’s done. But since we are all sitting down for family dinners, it’s not hard to keep her there for just a little while longer. She has to wait for Mommy and Daddy to finish their first plate of food and then if she ate her meal, she can ask to get up. Eventually, we will make her wait till everyone is done when we are out with other people, but right now she only understands to wait till we are done.
3. Teach manners
Now that I’m a parent and I’m teaching Anabelle manners, I’m amazed at how much I just picked up from family dinners. How to set the table, salt and pepper stay together, no elbows on the table, lean over your plate. I mean the list goes on, but learning manners never felt overbearing or over whelming since we practiced gradually over time. And now that I have a family, we aren’t able to have family dinners every single night, but every time we do, we are always working on something new with Anabelle. And so far so good!
4. Prepare for going out to eat
Family dinners make going out to eat so much easier! Since we always have conversations over a meal, we aren’t reaching for our phone. Since Anabelle knows to sit while we eat, she’s not trying to run around. And since we have practiced manners, there’s no frustration from bad manners while we are out. Family dinners at home are the perfect practice for when we eat with others, either out at a restaurant or at some else’s house. I don’t have to teach Anabelle manners in a new environment. It’s already natural for her because it’s what we do at home!
5. You learn to learn to like/eat everything
From the outside looking in, it appears that Anabelle just likes everything. But really, it took strategic work and actually takes continuous maintenance. Right now she’s learned the term “Anabelle no like” and it’s actually hilarious, but the only time we let her get away with it is if it’s something spicy… Family dinners help with this in a couple ways. First off, she’s sees us eating. Her eating everything started out as just copying Mommy and Daddy. From the day she started eating solids, I started feeding her as much as I could off of my own plate. And second, when she started resisting, I was (and still am… she did it the other night) right there to feed her bite by bite. And of course she already knows she’s not allowed up because she isn’t done.