Originally published May 2012
How can we make dinner a time for connection when we’re all tired and cranky?
I love when we can come together around the table and reconnect, and I have great memories of family dinners as a child, however, currently my husband is rarely home from work by dinnertime, and often I’m one tired mom trying to get three hungry kids fed. The temptation is to feed everyone oatmeal, sneak a piece of chocolate for myself and hideout in my bedroom after encouraging the kids to watch repeated junky TV shows.
The thing is, I don’t want my kids dinner memories to all be of a stressed out mom plopping them in front of TV – so I’ve come up with ways to simplify and de-stress dinner time. Bringing connection to this time of day motivates me to push through tiredness and make dinner, not oatmeal, happen.
Aside from my emeals subscription, which has simplified the “What will we eat?” conundrum for the most part, I also have found some low stress dinner rituals that help make dinner with kids meaningful in our household.
Easy Dinner Rituals for Connection
*Make it simple and be easy on yourself.*
Remember, you don’t have to do every one of these things every night!
Ask your child to make a centerpiece for the table. You can encourage a seasonal theme, ask them to pick flowers or select a piece of their own artwork to share with the family.
Light a Candle. The simple act of pausing to light a candle helps set this time aside in your day and gives people a chance to focus on being at the table.
- Saying grace, or a prayer
- Singing a song
- Rising your glasses to say cheers
Ask your family about their favorite part of the day. You may learn things that surprise you, and this is a great time for children to learn about listening to others. This question helps everyone relive a fun day, or pick the good things out of a bad day. We also like these Table Topics Conversation Cards (affiliate) to get conversation going.
Celebrate your family’s unique dinnertime rituals. Does everyone have a specific chair? Do you make a family dinner that everyone loves? Do you have a silly way you encourage the toddler to eat? All of these little details, when repeated, become the rituals that make dinners a meaningful time of connection that give your children a sense of belonging and safety.
Make it simple.
Your dinnertime rituals do not have to be complex, they do not have to look like other people’s, and they do not have to be the ones you had growing up. You can take a few small details and add them to your meal times on most days (it doesn’t have to be a perfect dinner each night!) Soon your children will be the ones prompting you, “Hey! Let’s light the dinner candle!” or “Mama, are you forgetting to ask us something?”
What makes dinner special at your house? Is there something simple you do that other families could try? Leave a comment! And if you’re looking for ways to bring more connection to you dinnertime, I hope you are able to find an idea or two to try here!
For more simple ways to connect you may enjoy 100 Ways to be Kind to Your Child!