Family dinners around the kitchen table might seem crazy in today’s world. How will you fit that in between soccer and ballet and homework and baths? Try these tips!

It’s Not About the Food

It may sound strange, but the “family dinner” isn’t really about what you are eating. The importance is more on the quality time and the people you are spending it with. In fact, family dinners are even said to improve kids’ vocabulary, academic performance and self-esteem.

Because eating together with your family is so important, you can even allow yourself to pass on making the actual meal. If you have to pick up takeout occasionally to make eating together work with your busy schedule, do it. Or try making double recipes and freezing half to have on hand for busy nights.

Dinner Can Start Before the Food

Family time can begin before the food is prepared. Preparing the meal can be part of the family dinner time. Invite the whole family into the kitchen to help. Everyone can play a part in preparing the food, preparing the table, and even cleaning up. Why limit yourself to just the time it takes to eat?

Keep It Light

The food can be heavy, but the conversation shouldn’t be. Make the dinner table a safe space for everyone to share. Find conversation topics that don’t lead to debates or point to differences. Family dinner time shouldn’t be a time for disciplining for things that have happened through the day, either. Address issues as they arise and allow dinner time to be a time when everyone starts fresh, regardless of the day’s troubles.

Traveling Family Dinner

Sometimes your schedule is too busy to fit in nightly dinners together at home. You can take your family dinner rituals on the road with you. Have a few routine check-in questions you ask each night. On nights when you can’t all sit at the table together, you can ask these questions in the car between meetings or in the bleachers before practice starts. Keeping tied in to your family is what the family dinner is really all about.

Have “Dinner” at Breakfast Time

Nights might just be too difficult to coordinate your busy schedule around meals. If eating a meal together in the evening isn’t possible, why not have your “family dinner” at breakfast? You can discuss plans for the day and how everyone is doing over eggs in the morning just as easily as you do over chicken in the evenings.

Bringing It All Together

Family dinners are all about quality time, which can help build kids’ communication abilities as well as social skills. Because cooking and eating together gives them not only their fill of food, but also of care and attention. Eating together can be vital to their development.

Keep in mind that if you put too much pressure on yourself to make family dinners perfect, you will always feel like you are failing. In reality, as long as you are making the effort for your family, you are succeeding.

Now go have some fun cooking with your kids!