Yeah, eating together. You picture a perfectly arranged table, delicious food, twinkling candles, and a warm glow of the room. Then finally reality strikes! You have one or two young children and a family meal is sometimes a stressful event. You need to juggle the desires and nutritional needs of everyone in the family and if you have children, you need to take into consideration about things that are appropriate for them. On the other hand, you don’t want to prepare too many meals, which can be both stressful and exhausting!
We already know the underlying premise of family meal: We eat together to stay together. Most parents couldn’t agree more with it. Naturally, our life gets hectic and sometimes we can’t eat together as a complete family – but at least, we can try to gather as much as possible.
For ages, experts have agreed that meals sharing can reinforce the family’s bond. Certainly, family meals will not end all your family’s troubles, but they can give you some nice benefits:
- They foster honest and open communication. Modern life seems to steal time away from our family, mealtime should be an exciting informal time, which can improve bonding between family members and it can give you the chance to talk with everyone. It’s critical to get your child fully involved in this bonding time immediately – this process establishes a pattern of healthy and open communication in your child’s life.
- You can teach child table manners. A nice benefit of eating together is the opportunity to train your kids just by imitating you. You may gently and easily reinforce table manners when eating together – it is a good time for children to learn to eat properly. Instead of establishing rigid rules, try to give your children some flexibility and freedom to eat anything they want as long it’s healthy. If you are serving healthy meals, you shouldn’t worry about giving too much fruits and veggies.
- They ensure good nutrition for everyone. This is the most obvious benefit: If your family prepares meals together, you are likely to eat more nourishing, well-balanced meals than when you are grabbing something on the run.
Things You Should and Shouldn’t Do During a Family Meal
If you are convinced that eating together is a great idea, but you are not quite sure what to do – especially if the entire family hasn’t developed the habit of eating together. Don’t worry, with these advices you may finally enjoy the family-meal greatness.
Try to be flexible
Of course, life is hectic for many of us, but you should be flexible when gathering your family members. Realize that sometimes, some other priorities will disrupt family mealtime schedule so that it feels like an impossible feat. Don’t fret, it’s okay to dispense with the community meal a few times, but try gather as much as possible. If a few priorities tend to interrupt your family time too often, take a quick look at the family’s schedule and consider changing it to make it more flexible and can accommodate a regular mealtime. You should treat family mealtime as a similarly important activity as business dinners. You should strike a balance between the demands of life, and family meals, but you should be sure your family can eat together at least five times a week.
Don’t upset the schedule
Family dinnertime can be difficult due to scheduling problems. Sarah has singing classes and Ronnie has football practice, you have too many works at office, and so forth. Trying to get everyone gather on the table each day can be a challenge, why not try to eat together on breakfast? Sure, you will need to get up one hour earlier than normal, but talking with a family before a busy day can make you more productive and less susceptible to stress. Preparing breakfast shouldn’t be difficult, try to cook dinner double the needed amount, serve the half and put the other halt to the fridge. Warming those dishes for breakfast or packing for the lunch should take less than ten minutes. No need to prepare everything from scratch by waking up at 5 AM!
Get everyone involved
The idea of working together with the whole family to prepare a meal may make you cringe as you expect for all troubles that may come. Instead, consider cooking time as a precious time together which allows you to work and help each other. Give everyone the right task and expect them to do all the cooking and cleaning up. When everyone participates, you all join forces as a family, which can build expectations while keeping you and the spouse from being the servant, try to foster teamwork within your family.
Getting your family to work together shouldn’t be difficult if you can set an example. You need to be firm – tell them that working and eating together are important and compulsory, tell them you need their help. In fact, even small children can help, for example a 4-year-old should be able to help you set and clear the table. Smaller children can also help rinse non-glass eating utensils and put them in the dishwasher.
Try to give them some control. Make a Sunday afternoon meal something that you’re waiting for. Take requests and discuss the menu, to allow your whole family works together and enjoy foods they help to prepare. You don’t need to turn your family into a beacon of democracy, but some compromises never hurts.
Don’t pretend to be a gourmet chef
Families need to be on the practical and realistic side of life. If you have plenty of time to prepare a phenomenal family meal then by all means, do it! In most cases, though, you should be realistic, and often you have to do it really quickly! Scour the Internet for practical and down-to-earth recipes, which can fit your busy lifestyle.
Ignore outside disturbances
Obviously, mealtime will not always be picture-perfect, you may not always have family mealtime that you desire. Several distractions frequently put a damper on our family gathering activities. To make time for excellent family time, eliminate potential disruptions. These are a few ways avoid them:
- Rearrange daily schedule. Homework and other works should be done before or after the meal.
- Ditch the TV. But if a background noise is necessary, pop in an unobtrusive music that the whole family will enjoy, especially one without words.
- Put your pets in a separate room or outside. We love our pets, unfortunately they can add unneeded distraction during family meal.
- Use answering machine and turn off cellphone. A useful rule of thumb is to avoid answering the phone while the whole family is eating, with no exceptions. Besides, if the call is really important, the caller may leave you a message or send you a text.
- Keep neighbors kids at bay. Your child may regularly play with other kids in your neighborhood, tell them when they shouldn’t drop by.