When “Back to School” means “Back to the Family Dinner Table”

Faith Formation

Stewarding Our Families / Corresponsabilizar a Nuestras Familias

Back to School brings us face to face with one of life’s realities: summer vacation has to end. Children may groan, and parents may breathe a sigh of relief, but one thing is sure. The beginning of school brings a return to routine, and this translates into less eating on the run and more scheduled meals around the family dinner table.

It’s not always possible for the whole family to eat together, but making it a priority at least some nights of the week can pay big dividends for the Christian steward trying to raise a family of faith. Here are a few dinner table tips:

• Everyone should know certain nights are family dinner nights. Look closely at everyone’s schedule, make a plan, and then hold family nights sacred.
• Whether frozen pizza or prime rib set the table nicely and sit down. Maybe light a dinner candle or pull out the cloth napkins now and then. Pick up a special dessert once in a while.
• Parents and kids often hit the dinner hour fatigued. Make an effort to relax. Start with a smile and laughter, even when you’d prefer to hit the couch.
• If you haven’t already, begin the family custom of praying before meals in a spontaneous way. What was I most thankful for today? Where did I see a situation that calls for prayer? Let everyone take a brief turn. It may lead to a great conversation after the “amen.”
• Resist scolding or criticizing a child at dinner. Never demand to know why the math paper wasn’t turned in, or why the kid will not get out of bed on time. Save it for a private discussion later. Allow the dinner table to be a place of welcome and support.
• Share the ups and downs of your day. Listen respectfully to their exploits and complaints.
• As you review the day’s events, don’t forget God. Just as you are interested in what your children are reading in writing class or library hour, express an interest in what’s being taught in religion class or weekly faith formation.
• Set the rule that everyone remains seated until all are finished. Then the meal is complete. But the work’s not done. Divide the duties of setting the table, clearing, washing dishes, even cooking so that everyone has a role to play, and the work goes quickly.
• Bring back the custom of an “after dinner” prayer, brief and blessed.

This article and more Stewardship ideas are available at the International Catholic Stewardship E-bulletin for Parishes.

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