As we get busier, there are a lot of things that get cut from our routine. Eating dinner as a family may seen small and inconvenient, but it is one of the best ways to build a strong relationship with your family:
Teaches good eating habits
You've probably had a night or two some when an event gets in the way of a home cooked meal. Once in a while isn't a big deal, but having this happen every night of the week is harmful. After so many nights of fast-food, your body begins to feel sluggish.
Plan your meals for the week on either Saturday or Sunday while looking at a calendar of this week's activities. Plan to use easy crock pot meals on busy nights so your family can still eat a home cooked meal. Make sure you have the ingredients for each meal; running to the store for one or two items each night will take up time you could be spending with your family.
Try to come up with only one night where you eat out and have dinner at home the rest of the nights. Share the plan with your family and get your kids involved. Use family dinners to teach them about healthy eating habits. Pledge to use real ingredients and add more fruits and vegetables to the mix.
Set the standard early for your family to eat at home to help your kids make good choices when they go to college or have families of their own.
Learn proper etiquette
Do you know someone who doesn't have the best manners when they're eating? Maybe they reach over everyone to get to the food first or they burp several times throughout the meal. Is this how you want your family to act when they're eating with other people?
I'm not saying your family has to know how to set the table for a 12-course meal, but saying the simple things like, "Please pass the asparagus" and "Thank you" are a good start.
Teach your family how to properly portion out food for themselves and others in the family. Show them the value of using a napkin to wipe their mouth and hands on. Demonstrate the way to use utensils instead of hands when serving and eating a meal. Some of these seem basic but if you didn't learn it at home, chances are you learned it the hard way further down the road.
Sitting down without any electronics creates an atmosphere where family members can share thoughts, stories and ask questions. Use dinner together to sit down at a table, take your time eating and enjoy each other's company. Use this time to to talk and learn about each other; there aren't many other times throughout the day where you can connect like this. Take the opportunity to have meaningful conversations with your kids and your spouse.
Use dinner time to listen. Get to know the people in your family's lives. Being able to talk openly now means opening doors of communication later on in life.
No matter how old your kids are, any good advice you can give to guide them through life is helpful. You might not think they always hear you but they might surprise you. If you can give that advice when they aren't distracted (like at family dinner), it makes it that much more probable that the advice will sink in.
Sometimes we have to read between the lines when it comes to how a child feels. When asked how the day went, the standard answer might be, "Good". But you can tell in their tone or in their body language how it really went. From there you can use what you've learned from previous dinners to help them get through whatever problem or concern they have.
Take the time to have family dinner. Make it a priority and as you work towards consistency, it will become a cherished time for your family.