Family mealtimes have largely gone the way of the dodo in modern society. We are all to busy and too harried to do the work of planning, shopping, preparing, serving, and eating a family meal not once, but many times a week. Modern life is simply too faced paced for most of us and the family meal has simply fallen by the wayside. Its something our parents and their parents used to do. But what have we lost by letting go of the family meal? Can it be reclaimed?
The truth is, the benefits of eating a regular meal as a family cannot be stressed enough say researchers. It is a rare moment of quality family togetherness that we can ill afford to lose. To begin with, the family meal is a place for parents to teach their children important lessons about food, family, manners, and meals.
A family meal gives parents a regular forum to model good table manners as well as to introduce ideas about nutrition and to expand the family’s food choices. Without ever saying a word about the subjects, a parent may show their children over and over again through years of meals what a well-balanced meal looks like and how one behaves at the table. The benefits do not end there though: if it is handled properly, a regular family meal can act to bring the whole family together and strengthen their relationship bonds.
It can be a time for the kind of good conversation and active listening that leads to a closer understanding and appreciation for each other. Children who have access to this kind of regular family time frequently do better both at home and in school, proving to be better adjusted and high functioning. Even one meal a week can have a powerful impact on the whole family.
If you haven’t been in the habit of it, the idea of introducing regular family meals to your family’s routine can be a bit intimidating. Don’t worry, though. The key to success is starting small and simple. If you’ve been eating fast food or take out every night, don’t expect to transition immediately (or ever, if you don’t want to) to three course meals. Instead, do what you can to make the project manageable for your needs.
Start by picking a few simple and healthy meals to prepare. There are lots of resources available to help you get started as whole industries are devoted to quick and healthy meal planning and preparation. If you need to you might consider preparing meals ahead of time, on the weekend for instance, and freezing them for later use.
Another way to cut down on time and extend the benefits of the family dinner is to ask your children to help plan and prepare the meal. They will be more invested in the experience and you will be able to spend more quality time with them both in the kitchen and at the table.