6 Ways Community Can Support Family Dinners

It Takes a Village to Have Family Dinner

It’s true.  Committing to family dinner as a community makes sticking to family dinner easier in so many ways.  First, you know you are part of something meaningful for all of you.  Being part of a movement helps in those moments when you are teetering on the edge of throwing in the towel and deciding to leave a pot of spaghetti and sauce on the stove and letting people fend for themselves.  I also think it helps our kids stick to the routine when they know that your expectation is the same in their friends’ homes; no kid wants to be called to dinner from a game knowing that she is the only one. Also, as a community you can share ideas, food, and time together.

So here are six ideas for how families can help each other…

  1. Play dates that become dinner dates ♦ Your kids have gone on a play date.  You show up to drag your child away from their friends to go home to have dinner alone.  They beg, plead, hide in their friend’s closet, trying to stay for dinner.  Deep down you are not thrilled about another dinner alone with a grumpy kid.  Why not arrange with your friend to bring a salad and turn a play date into a family dinner date?  Especially for single parents or one’s with only one spouse home having a second grown-up at the table makes life easier and can support engaging children in conversation and games.
  2. Community cooking sessions  ♦ Some of the most successful family dinnerists plan the whole thing out on Sunday night and even make a lot of the food they will need.  How much more fun and manageable would that be if you got together on a Sunday with a friend and a glass of wine and did it together while the kids played?
  3. Community dinner  ♦ About once a month – more during the summer, someone in our neighborhood will put out a group text/email that we are all gathering at their house (or at the beach) for a community dinner.  Everybody brings something to share and a willingness to let go of the expectation that our homes have to be spotless and organized to have anyone over.
  4. Recipe swaps  ♦ As a parent I get tired of my recipe book and run out of ideas.  This is where friends come in.  What is old and stale to you is new and exciting to someone else.  Sometimes I hear from a friend how my son or daughter and ate everything she made – give me that recipe!!!
  5. Make double and share  ♦ If you are making a pot of spaghetti sauce, how hard is it to make twice as much and bring some to your neighbor on a week you know is going to be difficult for them or when a spouse is away on a business trip?  And, if they do the same with the chicken soup, then you have two meals instead of one.
  6. No-shame borrowing  ♦  You are making your favorite recipe and you turn to grab an egg or an onion only to realize that you used the last one yesterday.  To go to the store could mean waking a sleeping baby or adding 30 minutes to an already late dinner.  Let’s agree that knocking on the door of a neighbor and asking for an egg should be the way the world works and not feel embarrassed or timid about it.  It is what makes community.

Please share your ideas for how you join together to make this commitment a little easier as a community!


John SarroufJohn Sarrouf

John is a father of two – Elijah (8) & Esme (5) – and the Director of Program Development for The Public Conversations Project based in Watertown, MA. John is a professional mediator and dialogue facilitator who spends much of his time leading conversations with parents and families about the opportunities and challenges of family dinners.

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