I recommend creating family mealtimes with your kids whenever you can. I know it’s not always easy sit down together due to work patterns, but it can be a lovely moment in your routines.
Does this sound familiar? You’ve been busy at work all day or you’ve had your children with you all day. You’re all a bit grumpy and hungry, and you just want to get them fed, and off to bed.
It’s so tempting to rush them through the meal and hurry to the next activity, right?
Well, mealtimes are more than just getting food into your kids, they are a time for sharing and connecting.
In our family we often start the conversation with a question about ‘what was the best thing that happened today. It’s a really lovely way to find out the little things that lighted up their day.
If you’ve got really small children, you can still chat to them about their day, what you’ve done together. Or talk about the food, what colour is it, where does it grow. This sets the tone for conversation at the table.
What are family mealtimes to you?
Think about your own experiences of dinner times at home when you were growing up. Did you watch TV when you eat? Did you have to sit at the table until you were finished, did you get rewarded for finishing vegetables with pudding?
Consider what you want create in your own family, and what do you want to avoid. How does this differ from what happens now?
Here are some suggestions to support happy family meals
- Eat with your children whenever you can. This might mean your partner has to eat alone later on if they aren’t home from work. Find a compromise where you still sit together whilst your partner eats, or all eating together at the weekend. When you are sitting down to eat your meal as well there is less pressure then you watching them eat and hurrying through the meal.
- Focus on eating – ban all devices from the table. No mobiles, laptops or tablets. Make this a time when you concentrate on the food and conversation with your family.
- Create an atmosphere – We often think candles are only for special events, but creating a ritual where we light the candle in the middle of the table every day let’s everyone know it’s time to eat, time to be quieter. Obviously the flame needs to be out of reach of little fingers! Older children can even take turns lighting the candle if supervised.
- Slow down – To reduce your stress hormones try taking some deep breaths before you eat. When we breathe deeply it signals to our body we are safe. When we eat with high stress levels our body is primed to fight or flight, so digestive juices slow down and your food doesn’t get broken up as well.
- Include the kids – getting kids involved in food preparation can sometimes help them want to eat more. They are more connected to the food and cooking process when they see what went into it. Stirring or chopping with a blunt knife can help. Children could also set the table.
It’s not always easy, everyone’s tired at the end of the day, but this regular connection helps strengthen families and creates a space to talk.