I had the honor to co-host a teleseminar with two colleagues from New York, Kathleen Cuneo and Grace Freedman, who also co-founded the Blog for Family Dinner Project that kicks off today. I wanted to tie in some of the discussion that came out of that teleseminar and pass them along for those who didn’t get a chance to be a part. When we generalize obstacles for family dinner we come up with three parts:
I will be doing a three part series on these obstacles this week, today I would like to discuss Time a little more in depth and offer a few suggestions to try at dinner tonight.
Commitment to time is the most common challenge. With adult activities (work, community involvement, friends, etc) and children activities (music, sports, homework, friends, and general mischief) it’s a miracle we make it to the end of the day. Some days seem to turn into mom and dad cab with a hope that you get it all right and don’t end up waiting at the wrong stop for the wrong kid and leaving one stranded. Work has a “big” project that could potentially lead to a raise or promotion, and then there are bake sales, community boards, oh and the birthday gift dog of whom you love, but just chewed up your last pair of dress shoes. There is an online calendar tool that is free that could help called Cozi.com. The discussion goes much deeper than that. It is more than just scheduling otherwise we have the solution. Life is not schedule-able (I may have just made that word up) all the time. A plan is a great guide but we cannot predict what will happen next as often as we would like. So we try to simplify the best we can. We say this line over and over, but everything a parent worries about can be dramatically reduced with the simple act of eating dinner together.
Laurie David has written a guide/cookbook that attacks some of these challenges. You can actually view her TedxManhattan talk (it’s 11 minutes) where she lays out great statistical framework for commitment. Do not be overwhelmed. Find resource that work for your family. Maybe a slow cooker that you can set before work and be ready for dinner time works for you. Maybe you have a break in between mom and dad cab stops to throw dinner together. We don’t say this often enough, but maybe it is your night to eat out. It is simply a commitment of time, but start smart. If you are not eating dinner as a family start with 1 meal. Commit 40 minutes to dinner conversation without distractions (no tv, no cell phones, no electronics). Show a sincere interest in others. Teach your children by example to listen, instead of just waiting for their turn to talk. Then move on to two dinners a week. Then Three….. You may end up discovering that dinner is the MOST insightful activity your family participated in.