Dinnertime is one of my favorite times of the day. I get to sit with the people I care about the most and hear about their day, learn about their friends, hear about school, and best of all, I usually get to laugh – a lot!
There is no denying the importance of regular family meals. They are good for the mind, body and spirit of everyone in the family. In fact, a 2004 study out of Minneapolis MN, found that the frequency of family meals can impact school performance, depression, suicide, and alcohol, drug and tobacco use. Other studies have even noted a relationship between family meals and lower obesity rates among children.
If this isn’t enough to motivate us to make family mealtime a priority, I don’t know what is!
You may be thinking, “Yeah, this sounds great but with insane schedules and commitments to keep, how can I possibly get my family together for meals on a regular basis?” It’s true, in some instances, it won’t be easy but if you don’t make an honest attempt to try, you could be missing out on one of the most important things that your family needs – now and for the future.
Need help getting started? Try these 5 tips to create mealtimes that will bring your family closer together:
Pick at least 3 days during the week that you and your family can sit down together (preferably without having to rush!).
These meals can be at any time of the day, not just dinner. Think about having a weekend breakfast or brunch. Or what about Sunday dinner? Often this is a time that is more likely to be open for families. Gradually work towards increasing this to at least 5 days.
Adjust the timing of meals.
In order to accommodate diverse schedules, it might mean having to have an earlier or later than usual meal. For example, if your son has a 6pm hockey practice, that might mean eating at 5pm. Or, if an early morning breakfast during the weekend is out of the question, plan to have a family brunch or lunch instead!
Get everyone involved in the prep (and clean up!).
Making sure everyone has a role to play in the family meal adds another element of togetherness. Older children, and even some younger ones, can assist in the actual food preparation while younger children can be tasked with setting the table and putting out the food. This is a great way to teach children how to cook without actually having them realize it! Afterwards, get everyone to bring their dishes to the sink and if the children are old enough, they can load the dishwasher and clean up the kitchen too – yet another great life skill for them to learn!
Make meals fun.
This doesn’t mean having to sing and dance for your family, though that could make for an interesting conversation sometime during a future meal! Encourage joke telling (age appropriate of course!), storytelling (how you and your spouse met), and making food art (honestly, what is the harm in playing with food during a family-only meal? I wholeheartedly encourage it as long as it stays on the plate and gets eaten 🙂 .
Under no circumstances should a television be on (or any mobile devices in the vicinity).
I can’t stress this one enough. The whole idea of family time means being present and if there is a television on or if someone has a mobile device with them, you may as well be eating alone. That said, here are my family’s only exceptions to the no T.V. rule – Olympic finals, the Canadian Grey Cup game and the Stanley Cup finals. But that’s IT! I leave it to you to decide what your family exceptions are!
So what are you waiting for, dust off your old cookbooks, pull out a crock pot, or fire up the BBQ…and get your family together – you won’t regret it!