Family life can get very busy – there’s homework, chauffeur duties, activities, bath time, chores, sibling rivalry, and then worrying about what went wrong and why?! Sometimes it can be hard to fit in a meal where we are all together, relaxed and present. But once we get the hang of it, eating together as a family can be achieved and has huge benefits for us all.
How do we set them up?
- Plan them: Sit down together and make a meal plan for the week so you know what to buy and cook every day. This takes away the ‘what will I cook today’ stress and avoids that last minute grabbing a frozen pizza or takeaway scenario. You can even take it a step further and take turn helping with the cooking.
- Make it YOUR meal: do as much as you can together – planning the menu, shopping, the food prep and cooking, setting the table and of course clearing up! In our family we always make sure that the table looks nice, with seasonal napkins, candles (I am Danish after all) and a nice jug of water with lemon.
- Be mentally & physically present: make sure you are 100% present at the table and not up and down to do chores or check your phone. Focus on each one of your kids, listen to what they have to say (listen to understand not to answer or fix), pay attention to everything you see, feel and taste – make sure your mind is full of what is going on right now! Take your time: often parents (especially mums) are the first to leave the table – rushing to the next task on the schedule – but try to stay a bit longer and enjoy the family being together and be mentally.
- Present. We know how easy it is for our mind to wander and get distracted by other thoughts, worries and things that need to get done. But just for the time being try to park everything else, nothing is more important than your family, right now. CLICK here to read more about how to eat mindfully
- Make it screen free: agree with your family that ‘screens stays away from family meal times’. That include us too. When we are on screens we are disconnect from each other and the food we eat.
- Ignore minor misbehaviour when you can: try to just enjoy being together. If you find that family meals get a bit ‘wild’ set up some rules for mealtimes beforehand that you all agree to, write down and sign.
Benefits of eating together
- Creates a family tradition that they will remember: all we want is for our kids to grow up to be happy and think back to their childhood as a happy, nurturing time. Family meals will help build positive and healthy values and memories that they will cherish for life!
- Builds family “togetherness”: kids who spend happy time with their parents feel loved, safe and important. Family meals glue the family together – ‘our thing’.
- Promotes healthy eating habits: kids are our little shadows and they copy everything we do. If we eat well, they will too. If we create a healthy food language they will adopt that. If you are cooking with your kids you are really teaching them the pleasures of enjoying the full event: planning, shopping, cooking and enjoying the meal without rushing it. Kids who eat and cook with their family are less likely to be over or underweight as they learn to have a healthy relationship with food and make better food choices.
- It’s fun: once you’ve got the hang of setting up family meals, planning them and resisting the urge to rush on to the next thing, they can be a great place to have some family fun. Time to talk about the day, have a laugh and a joke and listen to each other.
There is no rule as to how many there has to be in a ‘family’. If it’s just you and your child, then that is YOUR family and you can create the same values and traditions around regular family meals.
Good luck and enjoy