I don’t know that there is anything these days, that can fill the void left by the missing family dinner table. I grew up at a time when it was a must. All family members (in my case, my parents, brother and I) were, without exception, together at our dinner table – nightly. No school activity, no sport, nor plans with friends, superseded this event.
At the time, I didn’t appreciate its value. I enjoyed it for the most part. The food was good, I loved my family, my Mother believed dessert should be part of every dinner (as I did). But I sometimes had other events I would rather be doing. And then there were the squabbles between my brother and me, ones that my mother described as arguing (“No arguing at the dinner table”). We tried to pass them off as discussions.
The value was actual conversations with my family. We shared things, no monosyllables in our house; a glum “school’s fine” was nowhere near enough information. So, we shared and opened up about new friends and activities and teachers, and why I should be excused permanently from P.E. class. (That ploy didn’t work, although I thought I gave a well reasoned explanation of my side.) However, I did wind up being on my high school debate team. I love a good debate (and by the way, Mother, my debate teacher didn’t consider it arguing).
My feeling is, even if you cannot possibly command a nightly family dinner with all members present – plan it two or three times a week. Even with the extraordinary buzz of life today, you should set at least that much time aside for your family. Have the children set and clear the table. I was occasionally responsible for the dessert – my specialty was butterscotch pudding with marshmallows stirred in it and melted. I was 10 and that was fine cuisine.