How to Eat Together as a Family
Sharing a meal together (breakfast, lunch, or dinner) can be an important part of healthy family life. In addition to providing some structure in a busy day, it gives kids the chance to talk about what they are doing and want to do. It is also a good time for fathers to listen and give advice. Most importantly, it is a time for families to be together each day. (Taken from NFI’s best-selling brochure, 10 Ways to Be a Better Dad.)
Tips for Making the Most of Mealtime
- Family meals can be easy! Having a family meal doesn’t require you to prepare gourmet dishes. Heating up some frozen pizza or making peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch is fine! The important thing is that you are spending time together around the table. Check out FamilyFun magazine’s kid-friendly recipes for some ideas.
- Involve the kids in meal preparation. Give your kids a say in what goes on the menu, take them to the grocery store to buy the ingredients, and let them help you make dinner. The time you spend together in preparation will extend the opportunities for connecting with your kids and make memories, as well as teach them valuable skills about healthy eating, financially savvy shopping, and meal preparation.
- Put family mealtime on the calendar. If your family is like most families, you are probably very busy! Between kids’ sports practices, PTA meetings, and pressing deadlines at work, you’re going going going constantly. Pick a day that works for everyone in the family and put it on the calendar. Make it clear to your kids that everyone is expected to be at home for family meal.
- Be flexible. While yes, the previous point stressed the importance of not letting busy schedules get in the way of family mealtime, there will be occasions when things come up – one of your kids has an extra practice to prepare for a sports tournament or you’re away for a business conference. When that happens, find another time that week to be together as a family. It doesn’t have to be dinner – if your evenings are too busy, try to gather the family for breakfast one morning or for lunch on Saturday.
- Turn off all distractions. When your family is eating a meal together, make sure there are no distractions. Turn off the TV, ask your kids to leave the cell phones somewhere else, and shut down your blackberry. The point of eating together is to be together and have good conversation, and electronic distractions will detract from your time together.
- Ask intentional questions. When you’re together around the meal table, make it a point to ask questions that don’t have a yes/no answer. Ask your kids what’s going on at school, where they’d like to go for family vacation this summer, who they’re closest friends are, and what was the best or toughest thing that happened this week. Make sure to give everyone at the table time to share.