When your family finds the time to sit together around the table (or sit down to a snack at your kid’s soccer game or talk over breakfast-on-the-go in the car), try these tips for making the most out of family mealtime and connecting with your kids from Lynn Barendsen, executive director of the Family Dinner Project, a nonprofit organization that champions the benefits of family dinners works to give families the tools and information to make family meals a regular part of their lives.
Start small and find windows of time
Can’t find the time for dinner every night? Try for a couple of nights a week. Some other potential times to talk are over breakfast or in the car, or even over a quick snack or sandwiches at your child’s after-school activity.
Choose meals that are quick to assemble and cook ahead of time
Easy-to-freeze foods, like stews, casseroles, and lasagna, are a busy family’s best friend. Cook some extra on the weekends and freeze, then thaw and serve with some steamed veggies during the week.
Turn off the TV
Having dinner together does not mean fast food in front of the TV, with kids in one room and parents in front of another TV. The important thing is to connect and talk, not stare at a screen.
Put away the phones
Ask your kids to put away their phones before coming to the table. (You can designate an area on a table or counter as the cell phone area, and have everyone put their phones there.) And be sure you follow the rule, too.
Make dinnertime fun
Let kids choose music and go shopping for food together. Choose some nice music for dinner and cleanup time, and play silly games or just talk–about books, friends, their day–whatever topics interest you and your kids.
When you’re doing routine things together, like sharing a meal, your child will be more likely to share something that’s on his mind. Use this time to get closer to your child, and share something about yourself and your day.