It’s one of life’s simple pleasures, enjoying time with family over good food. So why aren’t we doing it more often and placing emphasis on this special time each day?
Times have changed and we are living in a more demanding world with tempting distractions. Work hours seem to blend into family time and everyone has their own agenda (or iGadget). Modern life is breaking a family tradition and it is certainly not for the better.
Sharing a meal, whether it’s breakfast or dinner (lunch is pretty much out of the question on most weekdays) gives us a chance to check in with each other and catch up on things we may have missed during the day. It’s these conversations that can lead to positive effects on a child’s values, their self-esteem and family ties.
Then there’s the chance for parents to role model healthy dietary habits which kids will carry into adulthood. There’s also evidence from Harvard University to suggest that families who eat together consume a wider range of nutrients than those that don’t get the chnace to sit down around a table together.
If eating as a family seems hard to achieve then perhaps you could work on a goal of dining together once a week or, if you manage it occasionally, then try increasing the frequency by one meal a week.
Here are some ideas to help you on your way:
10 ways to help bring back the fun to your family dinner
- Design some games such as ‘The Conversation Starter’ – questions on cards that might prompt conversations with older children who can be prone to grunting rather than talking.
- If time is short, ensure you have some quick dinners to hand. Dinners that you can prepare ahead of time, freeze and reheat are ideal.
- Design a weekly dinner plan together so there is an invested interest in what’s going to be on the table.
- Involve the kids in cooking.
- Talk to younger children about the food you are eating, how it was grown and why it’s good for you.
- Ask if anyone knows any jokes and have some up your own sleeve to surprise and impress!
- Keep the table free of distractions, mobile devices and try to avoid phone calls. Treat the time as sacred. You can catch up on calls after everyone has left the table.
- So children aren’t rushing through their meals to leave the table, make it a rule that everyone stays put until the last person finishes eating. This will help keep things calm.
- Ask your children to take turns to set the table. They can decorate it how they like, draw placemats and choose their seat.
- Talk about the present of course, but it’s also fun to talk about the past and plan for the future; holidays, birthdays, upcoming school assignments, new movies and what friends are up to.
Catching up over a meal is a subtle way parents can stay in touch with their kids (without being too in their face). After all, it’s just a family sitting down and eating dinner together – what is so unnatural about that?
This article was adapted by the Kidspot NZ Team from an original article by Karla Gilbert for Kidspot.com.au.
In a busy household, how do you ensure that the family eats together at least some of the time?