How To Eat Together As a Family and Why It is Good For You
Dinner time is a great time for everyone to connect, learn and share. It helps to forge bonds between siblings and the parent/child relationship. Rachael Scharrer, divorce expert and founder of DivorceAnswered.com.au, loves sitting together as a family for dinner. “Some nights are hectic and we sit at the breakfast bench to eat which may only be for a short time. On other occasions, we make it more special set the table nicely and invite friends and family to join us,” Rachael adds. Some tips for getting the most out of family dinners include:
- Ask open-ended questions, listen and be engaged. Dinner time is the perfect opportunity to learn about what your child is doing, who they are playing with and what challenges they may be facing. Everyone can share the best part of their day or the best thing they learned. Remember to share a little bit about your life too and how life was when you grew up.
- All digital devices off. Our daily lives are filled with constant distractions. When you are planning a family meal, the only way to make strong bonds or listen actively is if there aren’t distractions or interruptions to your family time.
- Dinner can be creative. Put a little effort into the meal by creating a food face, have a theme to the meal, make the food fun and exciting. When my children were little they loved our “make your own pasta sauce” night. Other families love taco nights and make your own pizza night. Family dinners don’t have to be boring and regimented meals. They can equally be light and enjoyable.
- Minding manners. Table manners seems to be a dying art in the rise of TV dinners and ad hoc meals. While it is acceptable for children to not have good table manners, it becomes socially unacceptable for poor manners at a corporate function. Accordingly, choose one table manner item at a time for children and parents to address. It could be eating with your mouth closed, no elbows on the table, remaining seated until everyone has finished or taking your plate to the sink when excused from the table.
- Sit in different places. Avoid having set places at the table. Rotating seats for different meals allows you to watch over different family members and connect with different family members. We tend to connect or be critical of those who are in front of us or immediately beside us, therefore moving around the table allows for connections with different members.
- Adults and children sit together. When I was growing up, family dinners at my grandmother’s had two tables; one for adults and one for children. While this set up is lovely occasionally, it didn’t allow for the adults to learn, bond or share life experiences with the children. Nowadays, alternating adults and children around the table allows for free-flowing, appropriate table conversation with input from all family members.
Dual income families, parents with long commutes as well as single parent families may find great pressure in having a formalised sit-down meal every night. Instead, try to schedule two or three (or whatever suits your family) meals per week where you come together and eat together. Alternatively, meal plan and make sure that mid-week meals are quick and easy to prepare and don’t plan for a protracted meal-time.
As a married couple, the parents bond and find common ground around the children. When the children grow up, that bond dilutes and, for some, they find themselves as two strangers co-habitating. To avoid this outcome, it is recommended that married couples regularly take the time to have a date night. This gives them the opportunity to connect without the interruptions of children and talk about life beyond the children. They may stumble across something to do together, outside of the family unit, to strengthen their relationship and continually remind themselves why they chose to be together at the outset of the relationship.
As the old adage says: “a family that eats together, stays together”