It’s a familiar scenario for families around the world, and it’s certainly something that I’ve experienced many (many) times in the past: after a long, busy and stressful day, dinner is more of a hectic transaction than an enjoyable occasion.
Sure, people sit around a table and eat. Maybe they even share a few words. But everyone is basically going through the motions, and largely distracted by the day behind them, or the day that lies ahead.
Before I continue: if some (or maybe all) of what I’m saying is cutting close to home, then please don’t be offended. Trust me, you’re in the majority, and as I mentioned earlier, I know what you’re going through. For several years, dinner in my household was functional, but not necessarily familial.
That’s when I decided to make a change that not paved the way for this website to come into being (8 years ago this month!), but also profoundly changed my home and life for the better: I turned dinner time into family time, and brought love back into my home.
Now, I can guess what you’re probably thinking: “Sure, that’s easy for you to say!” Well, you’re half-right. Yes, it’s easy now. In fact, meals with my family are among the highlights of my day, and something that I enthusiastically look forward to. But it wasn’t always that way. At first, we had to figure out two very important things: whether we were willing to put in the effort, and if so, what to do with that effort.
The first part of the equation is something that I can’t help you with. I wish that I could, but supplying the effort is up to you. However, the second part of that equation is definitely an area where I can help. Why? Because rather than trying to figure out what works (and what doesn’t!), you can take advantage of my trials and errors.
And so with this in mind, here are five ways that we turned dinner time into family time and brought more love into our home — and how you can, too!
- Change Your Environment
The kitchen is the focal point and hub of every home. It’s where families share food, share life, and indeed, share love. Take a look at your kitchen. Is it a place that reflects and generates feelings of togetherness, harmony and love? If not, then your first task is to re-invent your space.
Please don’t worry: this doesn’t mean that you should spend a lot of money to renovate your kitchen. You don’t need new appliances, cabinets, lighting, and so on. Simply adding a few flowers or simple, inexpensive pictures (such as ones that you take) can transform your kitchen in ways that you can’t imagine. Surprisingly, it’s often small, minor and either free or very inexpensive additions, adjustments and re-arrangements that unleash the most love!
And by the way: if you have teenagers at home, they’ll think this is really corny and old fashioned. But you know what? When they get older and have families of their own, they’ll be so grateful that you did this (and don’t worry, your grandchildren will give them the eye-roll treatment, too!).
- Don’t Try and Find Time — MAKE Time!
I can’t tell you how long it took me to figure this one out. We all wish that we had more time in the day, and there’s always something else we need to do ASAP. However, if you wait until extra time suddenly appears in your life before you turn your dinner hour into an actual hour, then I’m sorry to say that this is never going to happen. Time doesn’t seem to work that way. The more you wait, the longer it waits!
As such, what you need to do is take control by carving our time for dinner. You have to find it and make it vs. wait for it to show up (because it won’t). And this approach isn’t just for dinner, either. For example, in my home we wake up 10 minutes earlier each day so that we can have breakfast together. I can tell you without hesitation that I’ve never spent a second wishing that I had those extra 10 minutes of sleep — and once you see the benefits, neither will you!
For many families — and we were one of them — meal time was like an assembly line. We’d sit, put our heads down, and race through the meal. Sure, we’d have an occasional conversation here and there, but nothing meaningful.
What we didn’t realize then — but what we fully understand now — is that dinner is an ideal opportunity (and sometimes the ONLY opportunity!) to catch up on what each family member did that day. Or if we’re having breakfast, we talk about what’s on everyone’s schedule and agenda.
It’s amazing how much everyone loves doing this. But more than that, it brings unity and awareness of family synergy. It’s a magical time that I wouldn’t trade it for anything else in the world. Everyone has a safe and loving place where they are heard and can share. And really, isn’t that what we all want out of life?
- Make it Special
Who says that you need to be eating at a fancy restaurant to enjoy elegance? Start by setting the table on your formal dining room. Place and light candles, lower all lights, and put on soothing music.
And don’t forget to have your children in the kitchen with you. Make them part of the process. Sharing a great dinner together as a family will close your day in an uplifting note, and bring it all back to what is important: your family love!
- KEEP IT SIMPLE!
I’m saving the most important tip for last, because if nothing else, I really want you to remember this — in fact, you might even want to print this article out and take a pen and circle this section. It really is that important.
To turn dinner time into family time, you need to embrace SIMPLICITY. This is the key to a balanced and stress-free evening. Resist the temptation to overcomplicate things. Follow easy recipes (many which you’ll find here!). And you shouldn’t have to drive across town to get what you need: a quick stop at your local grocery should be all that is necessary. And as a bonus, since you’ll be so relaxed, your mind will be open to new ideas. Many of my favorite recipes come to me while I’m breezing through the grocery store.
Love is All You Need
The Beatles nailed it: love really is all that we need. Yet we all know that in today’s ultra-busy and hectic world, sometimes it feels as though we have everything but love.
Well, now you have five tips to transform dinner time into family time, and unleash so much more life, laughter and LOVE in your family and home. Try it and see. Your only regret is that you didn’t do it sooner!
With love from my family to yours,