For parents who put in what feels like endless hours to shine at work so they could do enough for the family, every second counts. Time is so precious, it’s not unusual for families to no longer take the pleasure of having regular meals together. I would like to emphasize the word “regular”, as in a routine that’s firmly set, not something that only happens once in a blue moon.
What are the potential benefits of having regular family meals? Plenty including: healthier kids because they are less likely to stuff themselves with unhealthy snacks; kids who are less likely to smoke; kids who are less likely to do drugs; kids who are less likely to drink alcohol; kids who get better grades at school; kids who are more likely to confide with their parents when they have personal problems; girls who are less likely to take diet pills and suffer from eating disorders like anorexia.
First benefit – healthier kids: Naturally we will expect children who enjoy regular family meals with their parents to be healthier than children who don’t because you wouldn’t normally serve junk food for meals. Even if you don’t have time to cook, you can perhaps order a healthy meal from a restaurant, opt for home delivery or eat at the restaurant itself. So the first benefit listed above doesn’t come as a surprise, unless you have a habit of eating at fast-food restaurants.
The rest of the benefits will only be yours if and only if you make sure that your family meal is a time for you to bond with your kids. This means meal time is special, something that everyone looks forward to, not a platform for you to be critical or irritable. If you feel tense, it is a good idea to freshen up by perhaps taking a warm bath before you actually sit down for a meal. If you’re not too happy with one of the kids for one reason of another, perhaps a discrete one-on-one with him or her might work it out, but lashing out in front of everyone will likely strain the parent-child relationship further.
Tucking into a hearty meal together means your kids get to listen to your richer and wider vocabulary in comparison to theirs. Balance it with air-time for your kids. They deserve to express what they did and saw, too. You might also want to try eating from a huge platter to help strengthen the bond and family spirit. The biggest platter I have at home measures almost 2 feet in diameter.
It’s so easy to come up with excuses NOT to eat together as a family. Kids who come home tired after extra-curricular activities, a spouse who has to run errands or finish work late at the office, kids need to finish their homework. All these excuses put together equals “inconvenience”. It’s inconvenient to wait for everyone else. It’s inconvenient to ensure there’s enough food for everyone. Fact: the less food you have, the more delicious it tends to be. It’s inconvenient to stop watching your favourite TV program just because you need to be there at the dining table. It’s inconvenient to check-in with the rest of the family when you are deep in conversation with a client or colleague. In a world where time equals money and everyone is pressed for time, it’s natural to do things that save time and therefore more convenient.
If you and your kids have the habit of eating separately, ask yourself:
– What’s really stopping my family and I from eating together?
– Why will I not mind missing out on the clear and proven benefits of just sitting together and tucking into a hearty meal with my family?
– Where do my priorities lie?
– What kind of message am I sending to my kids by always not being there for them at least during family meals?
– If the reason I go to work is to feed my family, why am I not there when that’s the time for me to reap the benefits of what I have been working so hard for?
Image: Angela Roma