Are family meal times important?

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Food! There’s just something about it that fosters camaraderie, you know. Introduce food to any gathering or meeting and it automatically brings on a more relaxed atmosphere.

We all know that food is essential, but are family meal times all-important as we make them out to be?

Family meal time is a time when members of the family sit together to share a meal. It’s not when one member sits in from of the TV gulping the meal down, while another takes a tray to the front of the computer. The meal is done together in the same place and at the same time [more often than not at the table].

While I was growing up, meal times were a big deal in my family. We all sat at table for family meal times and I can say I loved it a lot. Fast forward to these days, so many families hardly get to sit together for any activity, meal times are automatically also affected.

Eat together? I am way too busy to get that together! What with everyone trying to juggle between all manner of activities. Getting food down is often enough most times, don’t just bother with trying to get everyone together.

Are family meal times so important?

I will want to say they are. There are far greater reasons to do it than not to do it:

  • Bonding time: With the fast paced society we find ourselves now, there has never been a better time to eat together as a family than now. We need to regularly find time to slow down as a family. What better way to do that than to spend time together. Meal times offer this opportunity, both for slowing down and for spending time together to bond as a family. If families could commit to eating together on a regular basis, that will help to create time that can be spent together as a family.
  • Time to reinforce good table manners: Nothing beats teaching anything practically. Telling kids how to behave around the dinner table without showing or modeling it to them may not be so effective. Family meal times will serve as a time to reinforce those good manners to children. They can learn by watching older siblings or parents to know what kind of behavior is acceptable.
  • Forming healthy eating habits: Kids would prefer junk food most times over healthy meals. When a family plans family meal times together, you are not likely to go to such lengths to provide junk food for the family. It will usually be a healthy home cooked meal. Even if it is not home-cooked, it will be healthy food that will be offered. When kids are offered this option of healthy eating often enough, this becomes a part of them and they learn to choose good meals over junk food as they grow older.

Tips For making family meal times happen

  • Be deliberate about it: Coming to the realization that family meal time is awesome is not enough. You need to particularly make it happen. There will never be a good time or a less busy time than you have right now. That is why if you are not deliberate about it, it will not happen.
  • Find the best time: The best time does not necessarily mean the time that’s convenient for all. It simply means that time when most family members can accommodate. It could be a morning, afternoon or evening thing. You could decide on Thursday Dinner, Saturday breakfast, Sunday Brunch. It all depends on your family dynamics.
  • Get everyone involved: If you have older children, you definitely need to let them be a part of the decision on when meal times will happen. With school demands and all, they will need time to plan and maybe reschedule a few things to make the meal time happen. Involving everyone also gives them a sense of ownership and they can feel as though it’s a common goal the family needs to stay committed to.
  • Make it a time to look forward to: Don’t let meal times be a draaaagggg or a court session where you are drilling your kids about issues. Don’t let it be a time of tension and too many rules. Make it fun, engaging and something for them to look forward to. You could decide on something fun after the meal that will help to keep interest alive. Have a movie night for instance if it’s Friday dinner. It’s really up to you to come up with some creative ideas to make it fun.

I feel the pain of the person who may need to clear the dishes or wash up after these meal times. Sometimes, that’s the reason some moms shy away from the idea of having everyone eat together.

If you’re doing a proper table setting, it automatically translates to more dishes to wash. This is why you need everyone on board. Get everyone to pitch in. You can rotate duties weekly so no one feels over burdened. After all, there’s no point feeling miserable over what is supposed to give you joy.

Just do what you can to make regular meal times happen. You’ll see that your family will come to appreciate the good it will bring.

What about you? Do you think family meal times are that important? Do you have regular meal times in your family? I’d love to hear from you.