The family dinner has, in recent years, been consistently hindered by any number of activities – school events, sports practices, differing work schedules, etc. But for now, most everyone is home. What better time to revive or begin a family tradition?
Sharing at least one meal each day not only brings your family or household members together, it encourages sharing and participation in each other’s lives, provides a sense of security in these insecure days, and teaches cooperation and teamwork.
With shopping not as convenient as it has been, advance planning for all meals and snacks is essential. If you can make a weekly or bi-weekly meal plan and stick to it, it will be easier to keep a stock of pantry staples and shop or order special ingredients for certain meals.
Depending on your household, preparing meals will have a variety of scenarios. But whether you have a home with roommates, mixed generations of family members, adults with small children, or adults with adult children, there are ways everyone can pitch in:
Each of these decisions helps encourage involvement and group decision-making from everyone in your household.
The practice of etiquette has always begun at home. Why not use this time together to implement daily lessons for everyone?
Choose a host for the meal.
The host determines the beginning of the meal when she places her napkin in her lap and ends the meal when she places her napkin to the left of her place setting. The host may also begin the table conversation – or change the subject if it is not going well – and start the passing of food around the table.
Encourage positive togetherness.
Try and keep all conversation topics positive. A separate family meeting for discussing problems, serious challenges, or disagreements would be best. Encourage open sharing and participation by not allowing interruptions or condescension. Keep electronic devices in another room during your family dinner.
Make learning table manners fun rather than instructional.
Review table manners with your children at a different time instead of during a meal, teaching the Continental and American dining styles as preparation for your meals together. But during the meal, you could make table manners a topic of conversation by asking everyone to share his or her most important etiquette tip.
End the meal on a grateful note.
When the host ends the meal by placing his napkin to the left of where the plate is/was, everyone else at the table follows suit. A wonderful practice just before leaving the table is to thank the person or people who prepared the meal and set the table. Gratitude is always meaningful, but even more so today.
One way to look at this time that we are forced inside our own homes is that we have an opportunity to build skills, habits, and routines that we can carry forward when our usual schedules resume.
Some advantages of implementing a family dinner now are:
A most important thing to remember as you begin this project: It won’t go perfectly and may even be a long learning process. But stick to it and you will be happy you did.