Today’s culture is changing fast. And, for many people, that’s a good thing. But there is one image that seems to endure: family gathered together around the table at mealtime.
It turns out that it isn’t just nostalgia that keeps this image fresh in our minds. Whenever researchers look into the benefits of regular family mealtimes, they come away with more than a few benefits.
It’s no wonder, then, that sharing meals with family is a common practice throughout every human culture!
And as the world changes, these benefits become more important than ever. To really see their impact, however, families need to focus on the goal of their mealtimes rather than the simple act of getting together around a table.
Gathering everyone up is a good start, of course. But focusing on these benefits will make sure that your family is making the most of your time together
A Time to Talk
Family meals are a good chance for family members to talk.
Unfortunately, in some popular TV shows and movies, it seems as if adults are only there to lecture while the kids spout silly complaints. In reality, conversations during family mealtimes are capable of so much more.
You can ask your family members about their days. Not just the good things or the bad things, but the interesting things. The things that made them ask questions.
From there, you can help encourage your loved one’s curiosity. And they will learn how to do the same for others from your example.
If you have children, it’s especially important to set specific and consistent times for these family meals and the conversations they spark. Children need structure so that they have a safe place to process all the things they learn as they explore the world.
And when they know they have a guaranteed time to talk to you, it teaches them to be more open and communicative—not just with you, but with other people as well as they learn and grow.
Setting a Good Example
Whenever your family sits down to a meal, there is a good chance you’re all going to eat the same thing. Some family members might skip a food they don’t like, but by and large, everyone eats whatever was cooked.
That doesn’t mean, however, that younger family members don’t notice the food choices older family members make. Family mealtimes are a great chance to turn this habit in your favor.
Your kids will notice when you choose water over soda, for example. And there are plenty of reasons that you should, if you know the real facts on soda. From its sugar content to its impact on bone density, soda really is not something you should drink much of.
You can also demonstrate good eating habits by opting for veggies over starchy carbs. Or by eating slowly enough that can truly savor your food rather than rushing to get the meal over with.
Each of these habits is something that will improve not only your health and your relationship with food, but also your child’s.
Create a Sense of Unity
Family can be a tricky thing. Not all families are created through a blood connection, and many of them contain people with wildly opposing opinions or views.
So how do you keep everyone feeling connected?
While there is no one answer to that question, a regular family mealtime is one tool you can add to your “unity toolkit.” When your family knows that they get together every night at the same time for dinner, they have a common thread that connects them.
This bond becomes even stronger when you focus the mealtime on having open conversations or listening to each family member talk about something on their mind. And if you couple the meal with something like a relaxed family game night once or twice a week, you’ll create a family tradition that everyone can return to.
Other traditions you can start include regular favorite meals (Taco Tuesday, anyone?)… or a special day each week or month where family members take turns choosing a new recipe.
You can also have each family member take charge of one portion of dinner. This could mean part of the cooking, or simply setting one particular thing on the table.
All of these traditions get everyone in the family involved in the whole meal process, from setup to clean up. Instead of an appointment or chore, it instead becomes an activity the family does together.
After reading all of the good things that a regular family mealtime can do for your family, you’ve probably got a few ideas of your own. Every family is unique, and the exact way that a regular family schedule impacts each family and its members will change based on their needs.
But no matter if your family is comprised of you and your partner… or you, six kids, and two sets of grandparents… regular mealtimes should become part of your schedule. It might be tricky at first, especially if your family has a busy schedule. But even a few days a week will have a huge impact.
And, as the years go on, the benefits will only grow.