Perhaps you’ve read about the benefits of family meals and want to institute regular family meals in your homes. Yet conflicting schedules, and unfamiliarity with family meals can make it hard for a family to consistently have family meals. It can be a little difficult to start having family meals, but once started, there are several ways to maintain a regular family meal schedule.
If schedules are a big problem, remember that family meals don’t have to mean dinner. Perhaps breakfast is an easier time to all sit down at the table together or lunch works better on weekends than does dinner. Further, though it would be ideal for the family to dine together at every meal, this may not always be possible. After considering your schedules, start small with a goal of two to three family meals a week, unless your schedule permits more.
Family meals are easier to keep going when certain rules are in place for all members. These rules should include: no telephones, no TV, and no lectures from parents. There are good times for kids to get lectures or have serious talks with parents, but children who feel the family meal will result in a tongue lashing are highly unlikely to want to attend. Instead keep conversation light and breezy, in other words, conversational. If you can’t think of topics, consider letting everyone have a chance to tell the best and worse thing that happened that day. Let little ones take turns first as they are often impatient.
Though family meals can be a chance to exhibit your cooking skills, or to teach cooking skills to children, not all family meals need to be prepared at home. A family meal can evolve around pizza and salad. You may actually get more family time if you’re not slaving over a hot stove, especially if one person is in charge of meal preparation.
Also, family meals don’t necessarily have to take place around a table. You can vary the scene by taking a picnic to a nearby park, having an indoor picnic on the floor during the rainy season, or by going out to a restaurant. Family meals simply mean that all immediate family members are present without distractions.
When dining at home, involve children in transitional activities, like setting or decorating the table, that will pull them away from distracting activities like phone calls, computer games or TV. In fact it helps to set a time and stick to it. Since the nature of family meals is to casually dine together, don’t allow a hectic schedule to ruin an otherwise amicable meal.
Family meals can be more attractive to children when they take a little special effort. You can set the “mood” for meals by playing low music, decorating the table with flowers, or even having a candlelit dinner with the family. These things are appreciated by adults and children alike, and can make coming to the table a special event.
If you fall off schedule and drop back into old habits that don’t include family meals, start over. Continued efforts will help you to make new habits and traditions with your family. Also, keep family meals lively by varying what you serve, the conversation, and perhaps even trying out some “elegant” or period meals with your family. By serving up variety you are also serving up quality family time.