If you want to see fruit from your family gatherings, you’ll need to put some effort and thought into dinnertime- and I’m not referring to the menu. It doesn’t really matter whether you cook or bring it in. There are more important things that deserve your attention.
As a child I was always intrigued by the personal attention my parents gave each other and us kids. At night when we would be eating dinner together, my dad would pull a three-by-five card out of his pocket. On it would be four or five words he had scribbled down during his day in order to simply jog his memory. Throughout the meal, Dad would share with us events of the day or some news he’d received. He’d say, “The Meyers had a baby, and she’s doing great” or “I read today that a new Disney movie is coming out this weekend.” That small card filled with chicken scratches let us know that, during different moments of the day, we were on his mind. He thought about us and wanted to share something specifically with us. Those brief conversations made huge deposits in the family “security” account.
You may be thinking, “This isn’t practical for me three-year-old” or “My two teenagers would feel like this is childish.”
Well, there’s not a one size fits all when it comes to family dinnertimes. But try something. Put some thought into creating your own “index card” moments.
Here are a few ideas you might tailor for your family:
The Talking Bowl: Place a small bowl in the center of the table and everyone puts in a question. Some could be serious or they can be silly… but there are no right or wrong answers. Everyone has a voice. Along the way, you may learn a thing or two about the people you think you know.
High/Low: Go around the table and have each person tell about the lowest moment in the day, then the highest. It is a great opportunity to let prayer requests emerge and then to speak of how God is beside you in the mountains and valleys of life. It also teaches your kids to take an interest in their siblings and parents. Another option is to share what made you glad, sad, and mad that day.
Celebrate Good Times: Once a month when I was a kid, my mom would choose to honor someone in the family who had achieved something of significance. If you were the fortunate recipient, dinner would consist of your favorite main course and dessert. Mom would have toilet paper streaming down from the dining room light to each corner of the table. She made mealtimes a time of fun and interaction.
The keys to creating an atmosphere of anticipation around mealtime together are positivity, acceptance, and variety.
And good-tasting food helps too!