Do you eat meals with your family, or have today’s hectic lifestyles made family mealtime a fond memory? For my family, eating together has become a commitment that has been well worth the effort.
The best part of tonight’s family meal wasn’t the eating, though it certainly was a delicious, nutrient dense meal that provided tons of healthy phytochemicals, protein and fiber. No, the best part was the conversation!
As I sat there listening to everyone’s chatter, my heart swelled, and I realized there was a hidden added vitamin in our meal. When we eat together, and share our day’s experiences and stories, we’re enjoying Vitamin C….not only from the vegetables but the Vitamin C of Connection.
I don’t recall where I’ve heard about this vitamin, it’s not my invention, but that’s exactly what my family was sharing….a growing connection, a bond that forms when we ‘break bread together,’ when we banter and laugh and share our lives.
This eating dinner together wasn’t always the case in our household. When the kids were little they ate earlier, and once they were tucked into bed Vic and I would eat, often in front of the TV. Thankfully, a few years ago we decided to change our family mealtime routine. It wasn’t easy. The kids had to eat later, and we had to get home from work earlier. But we did it.
Some nights, dinner is a little earlier or a little later, but overall we have managed to carve out this sacred time twice a day, breakfast and dinner.
Eating together today is still something we consciously commit to, but if we let our guard down, it can quickly become a thing of the past. Maybe you experience the same roadblocks:
- kids’ schedules
- late nights at work
- eating in front of the TV
- talking on the phone
- eating in front of electronic gadgets
It can be a challenge, but by sticking to a few key strategies, you can make it happen. Here are 5 strategies you can use to bring your family together around a meal:
- Set aside designated nights of the week where everyone agrees to be home for dinner. These are non-negotiable times for you and your family.
- Decide if you’ll allow friends to join your table. We eat together even when we have people around. In general, the kids love it as it exposes them to different forms of communication and topics than we normally have.
- Get them talking. We use a round table method where each person has a turn to talk about their day.
- Respect each other’s turn. Encourage everyone to listen and ask questions. This is such an important part of communication. No one wants to speak if they feel others aren’t listening, and asking questions is a way to let others know we are listening and interested in them.
- Don’t speak over each other. I was surprised how hard this was for us. I guess we all want to be heard, and we think our message is more important than another message. Having ground rules around this was very helpful.
Eating meals together has been such a gift on so many levels. We are more connected as a family, we all laugh a lot more and we have a better, deeper understanding of each others’ lives. Yes, it’s required ongoing effort, but it’s an effort that pays big dividends.
We get to choose how and with whom we eat our meals. Are you ready to take a step towards family meals?
Give the 5 tips a try and leave a comment to share how it went. I know it’s not always easy, so don’t worry if your comment is more of a question. : )
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