Family Meal Times

25 Feb

from Parenting Magazine http://www.theparentingplace.com/

Eating together as a family has the potential to be one of your best activities and one that reaps some pretty good rewards.

Meal times have become harder to arrange and there are lots of other pressures competing for your time and focus. However, there really isn’t much else that can compete in terms of value and benefits.

Research from both nutritionists and family life professionals shows families who eat together more than four times a week, reap these benefits:
• More nutritious meals and knowledge of basic cooking skills
• Opportunities to practice social skills and table manners
• Improved family communication
• A greater sense of community and family values
• Stronger family traditions

Children who eat regularly at home:
• Are less likely to smoke, use drugs or alcohol
• Perform better in school
• Have a lower rate of teen pregnancy
• Are less likely to develop weight problems

A University of Michigan study showed family meal time was the single strongest predictor of better achievement scores and fewer behaviour problems.
Some families would argue that having a meal together is not a lot of fun, but there are certain ingredients that foster fun and closeness. Create an atmosphere that is warm and friendly. Your family will test the value of the mealtime on how it ‘felt’ and how much it was enjoyed.

Keys to help make this time memorable;
• Create ‘buy in’ by sometimes letting the children help choose what to have for dinner, prepare part of the meal and set the table.gp_family_meal_times.pdf
• Set some easy to keep rules for mealtimes such as: the child who set the table gets to choose where to sit. Adopt Monday as the special day to focus on manners. Eg. We stay seated on our bottoms, we don’t talk with food in our mouths, and we ask before we get down from the table.
• Every meal needs a start. Some families take turns in who wants to say grace and other families begin the meal with a thank you to the cook. Everyone should be seated before you start.
• Each member should practice saying something positive about the meal. Children may naturally dislike some foods and they can learn to share this respectfully, not rudely.
• Opportunities to talk are essential. Some families play ‘The highs and lows of the day’ where each person talks about the best part and the worst part of the day. To keep this flowing – use the pepper shaker and move it around to each person. Another great way to create a fun atmosphere is to use ‘Talk Triggers’ and have a special box in the table that these unique questions can sit in. Everyone gets to pick one random trigger and answer the question.
• Have certain times when there are candles on the table, when you use the special dinner set, have menus made, put on a favourite CD, and a vase of flowers on the table.
• If someone cannot be present at the first course, wait and all eat dessert together. If it is difficult to arrange dinner time, make a special event out of morning tea, afternoon tea or supper.
• Have times of celebration. You might focus on a school achievement, sporting success, completion of a task, area of effort, or willingness to give something a go. The ‘Red Plate’ can be awarded at times like this and the recipient gets to eat off this plate. Some children find it hard to accept the disappointment of not getting the accolade. This is a wonderful opportunity to coach your children to remember, “When something good happens to someone else be glad for them, not sad for yourself”. Mums and Dads should also be awarded ‘The Red Plate’ when they have done well at something!

Studies show that one of the positives about eating with the television off is that children eat healthier meals.

If the television is off, and phones are not invited to the meal, you are more likely to reach a greater level of communication.

gp_family_meal_times.pdf

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2 Responses to “Family Meal Times”

  1. Joelle February 27, 2013 at 6:22 am #

    Family meal times are great. I remember eating together in my family as a child and it is definitely something we’re deliberately holding on to and valueing as we raise our children.

  2. Tracey Lewis March 6, 2013 at 7:32 am #

    I was bought up in a family where meal time we all sat down together and discussed our day good or bad. I looked forward to dinner time. I’ve always tried to continue the practice importancentre of sitting down together at meal times , my partner struggles with this as he wasn’t bought up in a close family environment and he prefers to eat in front of the television . I haunt given up yet.

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