What happened to the family all sitting round the table eating dinner or tea together? That kind of experience now seems outdated with TV meals and convenience foods taking over. But, that shouldn’t be the case as mealtimes together are an important part of growing up.
Why has it changed?
The inability of most modern families to sit in a restaurant without checking their phone or scrolling through social media is harrowing. The silence usually says it all: they are not used to sitting together and eating.
That avoidance of general conversation stems back to the home and the lack of interaction and communication. Granted, sometimes families are too busy to sit and talk to each other all night, but surely half an hour at mealtimes is not too much to ask.
Parents now eat at different times to their children or meals are eaten in front of screens or in bedrooms, far away from the dinner table.
The family mealtime used to be a time when the whole family sat together, shared stories of their day at school or work, eating home cooked, delicious food.
It was, in a sense, a bonding session. An improvement in family relationships as well as providing a relaxing time for children can lead to a much happier household and a better atmosphere overall.
Regular family mealtimes can also help both parents and children eat healthy foods and maintain good diets through the week.
Best ways to ensure a family mealtime
First and foremost, allow enough time. The main excuse as to why family mealtimes have been abandoned is the excuse of “not enough time”. All it takes is half an hour to sit together and make it a habit. Parents also need to sit down as well rather than flitting about doing other jobs whilst the children are eating. If cooking is the sticking point then there is always the option of meal delivery for families too – together is the key here.
It’s also important not to just talk, but talk about something of substance. Connect and interact with the family with the events of the day. Make the mealtime ritual something that interests everyone with stimulating conversation. Most importantly, ensure the mealtime is a “screen free” zone.
Also, refrain from pressuring children to eat. “Just one more spoonful” is counter-productive and can instil a negative frame of mind that mealtimes are occasions where you are being forced to eat something you don’t want to. Ensure a calm atmosphere and children will feel relaxed to eat in as much time as they want.
And, remember that children are children. The more involved in the preparation, the more motivated they will be to eat what they have had a hand in making. Setting the table or pouring the drinks and then cleaning or chopping vegetables when they are able to do this can stir children’s interests.
The fussy ones
Of course, not all children cooperate. Introducing youngsters to fruit and vegetables can be tricky, but it is doable.
Mix the food in with other foods. Taste or texture, it could put the child off so if it’s surrounded by a food or sauce the child likes, it’s sure to get eaten.
Focus on introducing one or two healthy foods rather than all the greens at once. Gradual change rather than instant is the best thing to hope for. And, of course, don’t be unrealistic with how much variety a child should eat.
Plus, children love creativity. Why not present your fruit or veg in an inventive manner? Different shapes spark interest whilst vegetables can be hidden in other foods such as mashed potatoes and soups.
Mealtimes are key to a family’s progression. Get the children involved, regularly praise them and talk about interesting topics. Make the mealtime something to look forward to.