When I was growing up, my family always had dinner together at the table. All four of us kids had our designated seat in the dining room that we took every night, with my mom at one end and my dad at the other. We would all help set the table. One of us would carry plates to the table that my mom had fixed, one of us would lay out napkins and silverware, one of us would pour drinks, and we would sit down. Then, we would pray together, and we would eat a healthy, home cooked meal, prepared by my mom. We would have conversations about anything, and some of my very favorite memories come from when we would sit and eat together at the table. We also all helped our mom clean up after the meal was done.

We were keeping a tradition that to most families, even at that time, had already become antiquated and unimportant. Now that I am married and I have my own family, meal times at the dinner table as a family are one of my top priorities as well. One of my favorite podcasts that I listen to is Parenting Great Kids with Dr. Meg Meeker, and she has talked many times about the importance of family dinners at least four nights a week. She has often said that she has read study after study that links success in adulthood to how often children ate dinner together with their family at the dinner table. When I was growing up, I did not even realize how frequently other families did not eat together. I just assumed every other family was like mine.

A lot of times, the reasons families don’t eat together at night is that either they are too busy being pulled in different directions by extracurricular activities during that time, or they don’t have a consistent routine for eating together. When you don’t have a meal routine, dinner time can easily devolve into chaos. Your kids don’t know what you expect. In this season of my life, I currently have three small children (ages 3, 2, and almost 1) and so right now I don’t have older kids to help me with cooking, setting the table, or cleaning up. So, I have to be extra disciplined in my meal time routine, or it will go crazy. Once I started implementing my routine, it took a lot of work, consistency, and discipline and instruction to my three children on what my expectations are for the dinner table before it became a reliable routine.

While I still have to work with my kids on teaching them table manners, I am very pleased with us having dinner together. This is such a priority for me that I don’t schedule any activities on my calendar in the late afternoon and evening, because that would interfere with our family time together. As a working mom, this can be a balancing act. It can be hard to cook every single night when I get home from work, while watching my three kids, and then feed them at the table and clean everything up. But having a routine sure beats not having a routine. And, this has become a very treasured time for me, especially since I don’t get to see them during the day when I am working. Having a weekly meal plan and making sure I stock up on all the ingredients at the grocery store has helped, and I always try to remember to thaw out anything frozen before I leave for work in the morning.

While right now in this season of our family, meal time is just about getting everybody fed and cleaning up the mess, I look forward to continuing to have dinner together when my kids get older. I look forward to us praying together, each one of us talking about our day, my kids being able to help me, and even passing down family recipes to them by letting them help me cook. These are all such important things, and they should be pillar traditions in our families. It’s around our table and over food that we deepen our family relationships and our kids become who they will be.

What is your dinner time routine? Do you have special dinner traditions? How has having dinner as a family blessed you? Leave your routines in the comments!

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