Why Eating Dinner As A Family Is Non- Negotiable In Our Household
I assumed that family dinners around the table happened in most households. Sure there was the occasion when mum or dad might be late from work or the kids had sports so a quick drive thru would have to suffice, but in general most nights are spent breaking bread over the kitchen table.
Not so it seems. Upon speaking to friends I discovered that having dinner altogether as a family is more of a rarity than a normal occurrence. More and more families are so busy that they are hardly in the same place long enough to eat a meal together. Parents work late, kids are busy with extra curricular activities so the ‘family dinner around the table’ has given way to the ‘eat when you can’ behaviour that we’re seeing more and more of. This worries me immensely!
I believe family mealtime is where families create their identity. it’s where family happens and it’s critical to our wellbeing. In our household it’s always been non-negotiable. If we’re all home at the same time then we will be sitting around the table together. It’s a ritual. The boys set the table while I get the meal ready. Television is turned off and no-one has any devices nearby. If the phone rings it’s ignored until we’ve eaten.
It’s a chance for us to bond as a family by connecting with each other through conversations about the day, sharing traditions and making memories. Family meals are a great opportunity for us to share stories as well as model healthy behaviours. We like to go round the table on occasion and share a highlight from our day. It doesn’t have to be long. Just something that made us feel good. Likewise we also share our low points and discuss strategies in overcoming those problems.
Family dinners are also a great way to get the kids involved in the ritual of eating for enjoyment rather than just to eat. We get to try out new recipes, taste different foods and work on our table etiquette at the same time. You’d be amazed at how many kids have no idea how to eat at a table because most of their meals at home are served on the couch in front of the TV.
I don’t care how you try and justify kids eating in front of the box – it’s just shouldn’t happen. Apart from the treat every now and then of having a pizza and movie night all other meals should be eaten at a table.
Did you know that “the average American eats one in every five meals in her car, one in four Americans eats at least one fats food meal every single day, and the majority of American families report eating a single meal together less than five days a week.” This sad reality means families are missing out on the opportunity to have meaningful conversations with their loved ones and spend quality time with family members. This also has both physical and psychological ramifications for both parents and children.
Here are some tips on how you can make a family meal happen in your household.
- Try planning your meals ahead of time to avoid the stress of not knowing what to cook. Keep the meals simple. The focus here is on the family time together, not the meal. As long as you make the meal at home it is likely to be healthier than eating out anyway so even if it’s baked beans on toast it doesn’t matter!
- Get into the habit of cooking more and freeze half of what you cook, so that you can cook once but eat twice!
- If dinner doesn’t work for your family then try getting together for breakfast. The purpose is to have at least one shared meal in a day, and it can be either a breakfast, lunch or dinner whatever works best for your family!
- Turn off all mobile phones, TV, radio, tablets, and any other technological devices and focus on your each other. Disconnect from technology and connect to your family.
- Get everyone involved in the process. From food preparation to setting the table there’s a lot of jobs the kids can do. Don’t just leave the responsibility up to mum or dad.
- Drop the guilt. Family meals may not happen every day, and that’s ok. Make the most of your family meals when they do occur.