Put Down the Phones at Family Dinners
Rachel Haley, M.Ed.   •   November 14, 2022

Go to a restaurant almost anywhere and simply observe those eating around you. Every table will have people enjoying dinner of all different ages, ethnicities, and family types. Sadly, one commonality you will see among many of the tables is a phone or tablet in the hand of many of those tables. Instead of using those few precious moments in everyone’s busy schedule to really connect with each other, many times people out of habit pick up their phone and engage the phone versus the person across from them.

It has long been known the benefit of eating dinner as a family. Some of those benefits include:

  • Establishing routines to provide a sense of stability and security for children
  • Improving parent-child relationships through daily communication
  • Teach listening skills as children learn to listen to others at the table as much as talk
  • Studies show that families who eat dinner as a family are less likely to be overweight
  • Kids tend to eat healthier foods such as fruits and veggies in households that have dinner together

While these benefits are understood by most, they are void when technology takes over. Today’s families are busy. A family dinner even a few times a week can end up being one of the few moments in a week where every member of the family is in the same room simply being together in conversation versus busy completing a task. If phones are used during dinner, it puts each family member into their own little invisible pod whom all happen to just be sitting at the same table at the same time versus a family truly engaging and bonding.

There are many reasons why weekly family dinners can be challenging, but here is a list of some ideas that can help you to be more successful at engaging in quality time:

  • No phones at the table rule- By not allowing phones at the table, it can stop family members from picking up the phone to just check it without realizing it. Some families even have a basket in the middle where technology gets put so it cannot be a distraction. Whatever the method, eliminate the distraction so you can truly engage in quality time.
  • Ask questions- At first family dinner can be a little uncomfortable especially if your family is not used to sitting down and simply talking while eating. Get in the routine of asking some basic questions like “How was your day?,” “What was the best part of your day?,” or “What was the worst part of your day?” Using questions helps give routine and helps to get the conversation going. Once the conversation is started, it will continue on its own.
  • Set a menu and buy food once a week- Families who have a menu and do shopping for the week are much more likely to actually have a family dinner because they have food already on hand. Dinners become much more difficult if you are trying to squeeze a store run after work/school.
  • Have a few healthy snacks on hand- Every parent knows that cooking a family dinner is difficult when kids are complaining that they are “starving.” Have a few healthy snacks on hand to help hold off the hunger while you cook knowing that they won’t be ruining their dinner at the same time.
  • Incorporate your kids into the process- Depending on the age, incorporate your kids into your family dinner routine. Older kids can help with different parts of the cooking process. Younger kids may not be able to fully help, but they can help you come up with the menu for the week giving dinner ideas before you go shopping. By having them help with the menu, you are also more likely to get them to eat the dinners once your family sits down. During dinnertime, the creations of the young chefs will make for great discussions.
  • Use a slow cooker- If time is one of the biggest challenges to a family dinner, save yourself the time by throwing it all in during the morning and coming home to a meal that is ready to eat!

Family dinners without distractions or devices may seem like an uncommon practice for many in today’s busy age. But any family who prioritizes family dinners will tell you that the benefits far outweigh the adjustments to begin the routine for your own family. Start by trying to have family dinners 3-4 times a week. Not only will you get to enjoy some good cooking, but your family will become closer than ever over time!

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