How To Cultivate Deeper Family Relationships

As an adult, sitting down to a meal with my entire family is still one of my favorite things. Why? Because they’re my best friends! A huge amount of that relationship building was done around the table as I grew up. My parents prioritized dinner time and this practice became foundational to our family culture. We almost never had the TV on and phones during meal time was a huge “no!” We just talked, caught up with each other, actually shared details about our days and allowed each other into our lives, and usually laughed a ton! Now that my own child is suddenly not a newborn anymore, I’ve been thinking a lot about the culture I want for my own family and dreaming about the relationships we will have as a family of three (and hopefully more!) as the years go on. When I look back on the habits that encouraged close relationships in my childhood home, so many memories were made at the dinner table!

Earlier this week I shared on social media that we are committing to one week of intentional meal times and I encouraged others to join us. It’s been so exciting to hear from other people who wanted to take the challenge with us and make purposeful dinner time a priority with their own families! In case you missed it,

Here’s the challenge:

For one whole week…

  1. Everyone’s at the table! (When it’s possible) It’s never too early for kids to start practicing!! Finn will be joining us in his high chair 😉 (Live with roommates? Get them in on it! Live alone? Face time family or invite a friend over!)
  2. Only background noise allowed is music! Let it be a time to turn off distractions and connect!
  3. EAT! It doesn’t matter what! If you’re gathering around cereal you’re still winning!

The challenge is that simple, but so, so important. Here’s why – We are SO busy. Our one baby is only 5 months old and we still manage to be crazy busy. The bigger your family grows and the older the kids get, somehow it only gets busier! It’s easy to let everybody eat in shifts as they need (especially when everyone has their own extracurricular schedules.) If you have younger kids, or none at all, throwing on Netflix during meal time can be a nice way to kick back and zone out after a long day, but turning off the distractions and eating together matters!

Some days the minutes it takes to grab quick bite together are the only minutes we have to set aside everything else and just connect with each other. I know we’re not the only ones! When we don’t do this, I get to the end of the day and realize my heart feels less connected to my family. And how quickly one busy day turns into a busy week turns into a busy month until soon, eating dinner together isn’t part of your family culture.

This might be you and this is what I’d say to you, it’s never too late! Talk with your family about making a change and commit to the week long challenge together. Or commit to longer! They say it takes 21 days for a habit to form sooo do it for 3 weeks!

Maybe your family is grown and you desire close relationship, but didn’t prioritize connection as your family grew like you wished you would’ve. Here’s an idea, invite everyone over for a weekly meal. Or, think of it as an opportunity to embrace the season of “empty nesting” and treat every night like date night. 😉 Try a new cookbook, plan meals together, get creative and enjoy dinner time in a fresh way.

Young couples and families, hey! We got into the habit of eating with the TV on all the time before Finn was born. I’ve talked with so many young wives who are the same. When it’s just the two of you, it kind of feels unnecessary to have a quiet meal at the table when you get to hang out with each other constantly. It’s not about the dinner though. It’s about the intentionality. How often do you set your phones down, turn everything off, and make eye contact for an extended period of time? These quiet moments create an opportunity to talk about the heart stuff or let each other into our lives in a way that the multitasking conversations just don’t. There are times I don’t even know I’m craving deeper connection until we end up having a distraction free conversation and somehow it always reminds me why I’m so in love with my husband! I’m not saying we’ll never have dinner & a movie date nights in again… But it’s time to change our norm in the name of creating habits now that will benefit our family later!

So what’s holding you back? If it’s the cooking part that’s daunting, let go of that! Ironically, we were having Taco Bell for dinner when I initially posted about this meal time commitment we were making! We have our fair share of cereal-for-dinner nights and that’s ok. It’s the together part thats important.

For me, making a plan of action is half the battle. I can have the best intentions in the world, but if I don’t have a concrete plan of how I’ll make it happen, it often doesn’t. The weeks we do the best at dinner time discipline is when I’ve created a menu beforehand. This allows me to grocery shop purposefully and prevents us from finding ourselves without a meal plan on a busy evening and stopping through a drive through because it’s easiest. It’s fun to be thoughtful about what we’ll eat throughout the week! I like to ask Jordan what sounds good that week and to throw in at least one thing that’s different from what we always have. It’s a little extra something to look forward to at the end of the day as well as motivation for dinner table gathering when meals become more of an event.

Here’s a little menu inspiration to get you started! You can download and print your favorite design or save to use for later!

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Download it here!

 

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Download it here!

 

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Download it here!

 

Meal planning doesn’t have to be fancy. Write it out on a piece of notebook paper and tape it to the fridge or hang it somewhere your family can see (a little accountability and expectation never hurts! 😉 ) It’s all about intentionality! Let me know if you take the challenge 🙂 Let’s cultivate healthy family relationships together!

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