A lot of families are spending more time together during these days of COVID, but being in the same space doesn’t necessarily guarantee a deeper connection with each another. After all, our time is still being divided between work (video meetings and phone calls) and/or school (video classes and self-directed assignments). There’s no gimme that our schedules match up or that we’re doing much more than exchanging pleasantries.
If you ask the kids how geometry class went that day or if they have any homework, you may get the usual one-word response of “fine” and “yes” as they head to their room to spend more time in front of a screen. No real connection made, right?
But what if I told you there’s a simple way to ensure your family connects with each another every day? It’s nothing revolutionary, and you should think of this as a quick reminder since it’s something families have been doing since families were a thing. Just sit down for dinner together every night.
Our family has been missing out on this lately. As I mentioned in a recent post, my hubby and I have been working at our jobs—like physically going to the office—throughout the pandemic. School for our boys includes 100 percent online learning and a hybrid of in-class learning a couple of days a week and online learning for the rest. We were getting home from work to learn they hadn’t made themselves any lunch until 3:00, which meant they weren’t hungry for dinner with Mom and Dad.
At first, we just went with it. My hubby and I were still connecting about how our days went, so that was a good thing. But eventually it became harder and harder to have anything but a perfunctory conversation with our boys. Weeks went by with us assuming all was well, but suddenly we got notice that they’d really fallen behind in a class or two.
How did I let it happen? I check in with them each afternoon when we take our pup for a walk. Surely that covered things? But obviously, it didn’t
Since my brain is always trying to sort things like this out—thinking about systems and structures for staying healthy and making our lives simpler—I couldn’t help but question what was missing from our daily routine. Out for a walk on my own one morning, I flashbacked to the times when we used to sit around the table with the boys talking and laughing. That, my friends, was the missing piece of our family connection puzzle.
I got home and declared we’d be sitting down at the table together every night. Even if the boys had a late lunch and weren’t hungry, they’d still be pulling up a chair so we’d have that time together. I knew I was missing it—and, as it turned out, so was everyone else.
I was instantly reminded of some real self-health benefits to making family dinner a priority:
- Eating more balanced meals. My hubby and I can throw together something quick and healthy for dinner because we aren’t picky about it. But since it takes a little more planning when we’re feeding the whole family, every weekend I reach for the most useful tool in our arsenal: the weekly meal plan. Putting together the grocery list a breeze, and everyone knows what’s for dinner each night of the week.
- Learning more details about the events of the day. Setting aside this time together every night allows us to share more information with each other. The boys are no longer giving a generic response about how their day went just so they can move on to whatever they want to do next. Sitting across from one another at the table lends itself to longer responses than “fine” and “yes.”
- Creating space for emotional release. Our home has always been a safe place to say exactly what we’re feeling. Of course, our boys more than likely keep some things to themselves or share them with close friends. However, I continually assure them that they can tell me anything. Even if I don’t necessarily agree with a particular situation, I know that we can work through anything Fair warning—sometimes there will be laughter and sometimes there will be venting about the day’s frustrations. But providing this space is crucial for our emotional well-being.
These self-health benefits are true no matter what your family looks like sitting around the table—kids or no kids, all boys or all girls, or some or one of each. Making the time to share a meal together with no distractions and seeing where the conversation goes will deepen any type of relationship, so be sure it’s non-negotiable part of your daily routine. This is the quickest way I’ve found to deepen family connections.
Image from iStock/monkeybusinessimages.