The words, “what’s for dinner” can be a stressor to the mom without the gift of cooking. I’m not the greatest cook. But I love the dynamics of what happens around the mealtime table. I truly value the importance of bringing the family together whether it’s one meal a day, a week, or a month. You say, “once a month?” Well now that my children are grown, that is my goal. And if my husband and I offer to pay or prepare the meal, my adult children are sure to come.
Value of Meals Around the Table
Research shows that when a family eats together it promotes healthier eating, a better vocabulary for children, and improvement of a child’s behavior. It gives the parents an opportunity to role model those habits and manners they are trying to teach. There are so many articles out there that support the value of the family meal together. One of those was written by Anne Fishel, Ph. D. She is the co-founder of an organization called the Family Dinner Project. She has also written a book called Home for Dinner. This info wasn’t around when I was raising my children, but I agree with her philosophy that family mealtime can be one of the most important things you do with your kids.
When my children were babies and toddlers, I tended to focus a lot on what they were eating and if they were eating enough. I recall visiting my children’s pediatrician and asking questions to make sure I was doing it correctly. My mom guilt was kicking in. Were my children going to starve? My doctor told me, don’t worry, children will eat enough to survive. He said don’t substitute the uneaten dinner with sugary foods, but they will eat enough. Wow, that was an eye-opener for me. I learned to listen to what they were saying and allow the table to be a place of open communication.
Where do we begin?
From my experience, it begins when they are young. As the seasons change and calendars become busy, you pivot. Some weeks our family dinners were happening maybe 1-2 times. I tried not to allow perfection to be the goal. From toddler to teenage years, our meals were far from perfect. There were spills, arguments over who sits where and whose turn it was to set the table.
The goal was to all get around the table. Once we were all seated to eat, that is where the value of shared family mealtime would happen. When they were young, we could play the game, “I spy something…” and each family member took turns guessing. As they grew it became an opportunity to discuss their day – the best and worst, the highs and lows. As a parent of teenagers, this time was so valuable.
These days there are some awesome meal prep companies that send the food already prepared, or the recipe and all the ingredients to make it happen. If cooking isn’t your gig, these can be helpful. I was happy to discover that my husband prepared the meal better than I did.
Whether it’s a four-course meal or their favorite pizza, it’s about sharing time together without the interruptions of the outside world. Which can mean the cell phone has to be turned off or put away during meals. You can get creative and eat around the table or sit on a blanket and create a picnic. However it happens, gathering around the table for family mealtime together truly connects the hearts in the home.