It is easy to underestimate the importance of family meals, especially when getting everyone together can be a challenge.
For many parents, the phrase family meals can be intimidating. Young children rarely want to sit at the table during meal times, and busy schedules make it hard to find the time.
Parents are constantly on the go, so finding the time and energy to wrestle everyone together feels like an impossible task.
Yet, family meals are incredibly important. It can sometimes be the only time a family is all together. The trick is to make things easier by making things fun.
Communication and family dynamics
The key importance of a family meal is to carve out time for communicating as a family. With jobs, school and hobbies, finding time together gets all the more difficult. By sitting down together, it gives the family time to catch up and form important bonds.
It teaches children what close family bonds feel like and allows parents to develop supportive relationships with their children.
Forming communicative bonds between parents and children increases the chances that children will seek help if they run into trouble. Without a strong parental relationship, children may feel the need to face trouble alone when a guiding parental hand can make all the difference.
By spending time together and coordinating schedules, family dynamics can also be improved. It is common for parents to split the dinnertime ‘chore’, but using it as an opportunity for family time will bring the family closer and decrease the isolation of the absent parent.
Teach by example
The job of a parent is to teach their children how they should treat others and expect to be treated as they grow older. Family meals are the perfect opportunity to lead by example. By dividing tasks in meal preparation, setting the table and tidying up, children learn the importance of cooperation and support.
When conversing during a meal, parents can show their children that it is important to pay attention to others. When problems arise, support and advice can be shared. As they say, a problem shared is a problem halved, and family meals are the perfect time to find solutions.
Family meals also give parents the chance to show their children what they should expect for their future. No two families are completely alike, but sharing meals and forming bonds are something common in every family.
By learning the value of family time from a young age, children will expect and provide this in their own families when the time comes. Finding a way to make mealtimes fun can be difficult, but we have some advice which could help.
Get everyone involved
Family meals hold a hidden opportunity to teach your children how to cook. Getting children involved in the preparation process is a fun way to build a skill and children are more likely to eat something they made themselves.
Young children may not be able to help with the actual cooking, but feeling as though they are involved by holding a spoon or stirring a mix will build family relationships as well as self-esteem.
Invite special guests to meals, such as grandparents or aunts and uncles. Spending time with people they don’t get to see much can be exciting and extend children’s attention and keep them at the table and interested in food.
Sometimes the most difficult thing to do is get everyone at the table. Taking meals away from the table can be a huge help. Have a picnic outside or on the lounge floor and make things more interesting. Variety will help to keep children’s interest and teach them that meal times don’t have to be a chore, that they can be fun, too.
If you want to eat at the table, create a theme for your meal with food from a different country or based around their favorite movie. Dress up and play pretend, showing your children that meals are fun and you are too.
Allocate a day for a favorite meal
Everyone has their own favorite meal, children especially. Whether it’s pizza or burgers, allocate one night a week where the kids get to pick what you eat. This will keep their attention throughout the week because they know their favorite meal is on its way.
Choosing their own food also helps children learn delayed gratification, that waiting can sometimes bring greater rewards. Making their own choices also gives them control over their own food and makes them much more likely to eat it.
Family meals can be hard to get right. Finding the time and finding the right technique can be a challenge. The effort, however, is worth it. Developing lasting bonds and precious memories is an important part of being a family.
Teaching your children the importance of family can be done in many ways, but spending time together eating is a simple way to do it every day.
By Francesca F.