How to Carve Out Time for Family Dinners
Eating on the run may seem more practical given our hectic lives, but the average family prepares and eats dinner at home five nights a week -- that's five opportunities to enjoy each other's company. Still think you can't carve out the time? Try these strategies:
- Turn off the TV and the computer. Screen time can really eat into family time, if you let it. Cut out some TV watching or Web surfing and you'll find "extra" time for family meals. "Most mealtimes only last about 20 minutes," says Barbara Fiese, PhD, a psychologist and researcher at Syracuse University. "Three or four shared family meals a week add up to about one hour -- considerably less time than a weekly televised sports event or movie."
- Rely on the answering machine. Whether they're from telemarketers or well-meaning friends, telephone calls can disrupt the flow of a family meal. Instead of jumping up from the table every time the phone rings, let the answering machine pick up, and then return the calls at a time that's convenient for you.
- Plan meals ahead of time. Instead of scrambling as dinnertime approaches, take a few minutes on Sundays to decide what you'll serve for dinner each night of the week. And any food prep you can do in advance will help make dinner go more smoothly.
- Slow down for your kids. Children tend to eat more slowly than adults, so plan on enough time for kids to finish their meals. Instead of rushing through your meal, take a few extra minutes to relax before cleaning up.
- Promote pleasant conversation. Keep conversation around the table light and positive. Need a way to get the conversation flowing? Try going around the table and having each family member share something about his day or a funny joke.