With the families becoming increasingly nuclear, mealtimes have become a quick and lonely affair. Both the parents are juggling work, along with extracurricular activities, household chores and, school. It is practically impossible to enjoy a stress-free meal with the children. For many families, a mealtime together has become next to impossible. Sometimes, this leads to a shift in the family’s dynamics in a negative way. Read further to discover the joy of enjoying a family mealtime.
There is an ancient adage that goes, The family that eats together, stays together. In todays’ fast-paced life, the families are stressed for time. As a result, they lack an emotional connection with one another. One of the ways to bring back the fun, happiness, and vitality into a family is to have family meals together.
For the well-being of the person, both body and mind need nourishment, and family meals provide the much-needed sustenance to a person. A simple home-cooked meal can be refreshing and add much-needed nutritional value. The presence of all the family members not only brings cheer but also adds to the emotional well-being.
A family can plan a meal to their convenience (breakfast, lunch, or dinner). The most crucial factor is that the whole family comes together to relish the meal prepared. Many researchers endorse that families plan at least one meal a day with the family. If this seems far-fetched, then a minimum of one meal per week is recommended.
Reasons why family meals are of great significance
- Family meals provide opportunities for the whole family to gather and spend time with one another. The whole family can develop special rituals around mealtimes. It will lead to de-stressing and a better emotional connection between the family members.
- Family meals provide opportunities for the parents to be role models to their children. Toddlers and young children can learn eating habits and polite table manners from their parents.
- Many types of research have shown that the kids who eat regularly with their family tend to eat a wide variety of food. They see their parents or siblings eat a particular food and, the young kids emulate that.
- When a family sits together, they share their day. Both pleasant and unpleasant happenings of the day are shared. It brings the family close together.
- Family becomes close-knitted and, strong ties are formed. They communicate regularly, which results in less friction.
- During family mealtimes, the family members tend to slow down and relax. They talk and eat slowly. They enjoy the meal.
Tips for planning a stress-free family meal
A family that enjoys a meal together is happier, healthier, and has improved self-esteem. Here are a few tips to keep in mind while arranging for a family mealtime together.
- Make Family mealtime a priority. Make it a part of the weekly / daily household rhythm. Let the whole family know that the mealtimes are a part of their family rhythm.
- Let the family mealtime focus on spending time with one another rather than planning for an elaborate menu.
- Always plan ahead. Arrive at the menu a few days earlier and involve the children in the same.
- Go grocery shopping with the children. Let them know what ingredients go inside their meal. If the children are older, they can help in cooking as well.
- Let the children help set up the table and also help in cleaning up (after the meal).
- Switch off the TV/ Phones during the family mealtime.
- During family meals, have pleasant conversations. Talk about all that happened that made you feel happy rather than talk only about the negative happenings of the day.
Making mealtimes memorable
Once in a while make the meal times fun. Here are a few ways you can bring in the fun element to your mealtime.
- On special occasions/holidays/birthdays, plan for a moonlight dinner or a candlelight dinner with the family on the terrace or the balcony.
- Make sandwiches and go outdoors to have some fun. Enjoy a lazy Sunday morning picnicking under a tree.
- If you have a toddler at home, you can crawl under the dining table and have a fun meal together.
- The mealtimes can also be fun if you artistically present the food. Follow a theme or use the cookie cutters/knife to make fun shapes out of sandwiches, pancakes.
Bringing mindfulness into your mealtimes
Many parents are aware of the immense benefits of mindfulness and would like to incorporate them into the daily rhythm. Family mealtimes can be one such activity where mindfulness and healthy eating patterns be incorporated. Ayurveda – an ancient science from India, teaches us holistic living along with healthy eating habits. Ayurvedic principles can be applied to bring in mindful eating during mealtimes.
1. Enjoy your meals in silence – During your family mealtime, enjoy your meal in silence. Set a timer for three to five minutes, and enjoy the meal in absolute silence. Say a prayer and just taste the meal. Breathing in and out while enjoying your meal.
2. Talk about the taste – The parents can keep the conversation on food during the meal times. The children can enjoy their meals better if they can savor them. The parents can comment on the flavors that they notice in the food prepared. For example, parents can say, I can taste the bitterness in the bitter gourd. I can taste the sweetness in the pumpkin today. When I bite into the cucumbers, they are crisp or, I particularly like the smell of the Rasam today, can you smell it too?. Having such conversations will keep the children focused on the food.
3. Guess the flavor game – You can keep the main focus on the meal by playing a simple game on flavors. The parent can ask the children to taste a particular dish and guess what ingredients went into preparing it. The parent can say, I have added a mystery spice into the soup today. Can you name it?
And finally, practice the art of deep listening. Always listen to the ideas of your child earnestly. If you listen to them earnestly, the children feel connected with you. They know that you value their opinions resulting in improved self-awareness and confidence.
Let me know how you plan and enjoy your family mealtimes. Do share with me your favorite recipes you like to cook, the stories, and unforgettable memories.
If you are looking for some mindfulness ideas that worked for me, you could also read my blog post titled Introducing mindfulness to children.