It is important as the air we breathe – the feeling of belonging. Whether you are in a traditional family or a blended family of selected individuals, we all want to belong to a family unit. It is in our nature to want to be loved, feel a sense of security and belong to something that makes you feel part of a whole. One of the main ways we can bring back that sense of belonging is to have family meals.
Too many families today are divided at meal times because of conflicting schedules. In an effort to be the best parent or best caregiver, we often forget one of the primary ways of connecting with our families center around mealtimes. Eating alone, which is all too common these days, can bring on feelings of loneliness and detachment. Eating as a family can overcome these feelings by uniting the people who most care about each other.
Start Early and Stay Focused
Make family mealtime a ritual that you observe from the time your child is born. Although sleeping patterns are different, bring your child into the family ritual as early as possible to set the pattern for life. Children who eat with their parents are generally better eaters and strive to eat what their parent’s model. Just as any good parent tries to set a good example with their actions, eating quality food is the best example for a lifetime of healthy eating.
This sense of structure within family life will transfer into other areas and help your child to be successful in school with the skills learned surrounding mealtimes. There is a certain organization to meal planning and execution that children learn, not only by watching but by participating in the activities.
Having a sense of family traditions, one generation passing along the “secrets” of the family to the next, brings a strong sense of belonging. Mealtimes are a great place to build these family traditions. The special recipes from Grandma or how Mom always folds the napkins are things that our children will remember fondly as they grow and build their own families. These traditions create strong bonds among the members who share freely with each other. Children like to feel a part of the whole even when they are too young to understand the underlying meanings.
Teaching children to eat whole foods, taking them to shop at local farms or learn how to grow their own food in a family garden are skills that will serve them for a lifetime. These memories will far outweigh the soccer goal or the home-run in the game. Not only will the outings bring a sense of belonging but the skills learned will help foster the next generation to be environmentally aware.
If you read the words above, it explains quite simply that dinners are about families, not food. We tend to focus on the food being the entertainment at dinner. Instead, the family socialization should be the focus of dinner and the food should be merely the means to bring us together. Quality food will provide the necessities for good health but family time will provide the necessities for strengthening our souls. The more we focus on the family and less on the food (without sacrificing the quality of the food), the more we will enjoy our mealtimes.
Mealtime conversations should focus on the positive. Let the negativity take a back seat until everyone has had a chance to digest. If the dishes need to be done, add it to the routine of dinner time. Nagging at dinner time just spoils the whole atmosphere. Try to make dinner time the best time of the day. This will help everyone in the family to feel better about getting together regularly.
It is necessary to prioritize mealtimes or they will get pushed aside for other things. As children get older, it will be more difficult to find common times to eat together but don’t let it go altogether. If mealtime is always a positive event, everyone will want to keep the tradition going. So plan a time, at least once a week that everyone knows not to make other arrangements. It’s not impossible, it just takes planning.
Having a regular mealtime with your family will help with family bonding, give you and your children a sense of belonging and provide traditions for generations to come.
Post a reply and share a family memory about mealtimes that was special for you.