What ever happened to the family dinner? Many of us turn to technology as the cause of the disintegrating mealtime efforts but really it’s our own fault. We’ve become lazy and busy and let ourselves off the hook one too many times. All we need to do is decide to make family dinner (and other meals) a regular occurrence again. Here’s why you should eat dinner as a family and all the benefits of regular family meals.
What do the professionals think?
“It is a sad indictment of our generation that families eat while watching TV or on the run (breakfast is a drink with a straw in the car) or each person eats at their convenience, alone with their iPad, or Mum is cooking, cleaning and/or busy while simultaneously trying to get the kids to sit down and eat.
Eating together is perfect, quality time. It should be a restful space in the day where you feed your body and your emotions by sharing and communicating. With young kids, at least once a day is essential, twice would be the jackpot. The benefits are:
1. When mum and dad share in a non-burdensome way, children learn empathy and realise that mum and dad have feelings, too. This goes a long way to reducing behaviour difficulties.
2. It reinforces the idea we are a family and do things together. We do not lead separate lives.
3. It is an opportunity to encourage healthy eating just by providing healthy food. Young kids can be encouraged to sit and eat because they love mum and dad's attention.
4. All technology should be off so there is a twenty-minute window of quiet and focusing on each other.
5. You can teach mindfulness by teaching mindful eating, which lowers anxiety.
6. Feeling part of a family boosts self-esteem and feelings of belonging as opposed to feelings of alienation”
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We also spoke with Relationship Connection & Engagement Specialist Jeff Withers, from Love Dynamics, who told us what reinstating family dinners can do for your family:
“We live in an age of “talking via text”, the “new” way of communicating that is effectively destroying family connection and engagement. “Family” is being lost to younger generations through a lack of personal communication and face to face quality time. Sharing the evening meal together as a family is a brilliant way to spend quality time together, and it can be made even more successful through one simple little mealtime activity – story telling.
Sharing stories brings family members together to learn more about what is happening in the lives of each other every day. It supports understanding, respect and empathy. It “tells” younger family members that their parents really want to know what is happening in their lives (and vice versa). Parents and children have an opportunity to grow closer together through appreciating the value each has to offer and it provides a platform for trust to grow. Trust that someone really cares and trust that they can be listened to when a supportive hand is needed most.”
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So how do you encourage more family meals?
With a great dining setup
It’s less common to have a separate dining and living space in modern homes. One of the drawbacks here is there is no separation from our after-dinner activities, like watching TV. It pulls us into dinner on the couch instead of at the table. A proper dining table and chairs that you want to enjoy meals at is the first step in creating a family ritual. Another method is to have a place where you put away all the tech - including phones/tablets - so that you’re not tempted by them. Your TV cabinet drawers are the perfect space for hiding the remote, all phones and tablets during meals. It’s only for a short while and you can pull them back out straight after dinner. Check out MyDeal furniture for a total dining room refresh and a decorative TV cabinet to keep your distractions at bay.
Finding a way around separate routines
You may not eat at the same time as your younger children or baby. In order to get them off to bed nice and early you’re likely to serve their dinner first and then enjoy your own meal later on, perhaps with your partner. Just because you’re not physically eating together doesn’t mean you can skip the family atmosphere. If everyone is home in the early evening when the young kids eat then sit with them and encourage them to finish their food and talk about your day. If you or your partner are home after the kids dinner you can still encourage sharing. Have your kids sit at the table with you while you eat to chat before they head to bed. Or, set them up with their own table for a relaxing activity such as drawing before bed. They’ll still be included in your conversation and you’ll avoid hungry kids being forced to wait to eat. Shop MyDeal kids furniture for affordable table and chair sets.
Share the cooking and let go of the pressure
It’s easy to fall in a dinner rut when you’re feeling the pressure to produce healthy meals every night. Rather than getting caught in a stress cycle and giving up on cooking, share the duties with your partner. If you’ve only got one cook in the home then let yourself off the hook every so often and grab some takeout. Or prepare larger meals so there’s leftovers to be frozen for another night. Even if it’s just pizza on a Friday night, eating it together as a family rather than grabbing a slice and disappearing back to your tech is going to help you bond.
One meal at a time we can regain the benefits for families by bonding over food. Starting with dinner and working your way to breakfast - even if it’s only on weekends - will mean your family will be closer than ever.