Many adults today can still remember a family meal, though often is was not with their parents but their grandparents. Fond memories can be seen on their faces as they recall the last time they sat with a loved one and shared the events of a day over home cooked food. The desire for their children to experience this is there, however, the obstacles are great and the habit is already formed.
When my children were small, mealtime at the table was a regular occurrence. This was our time to share the day, events to come, and openly talk about things we didn't quite understand. Food was prepared together with everyone pitching in, and we practiced relating to each other's preferences and differences.
As a parent, we make time for the things we value most- and we set the tone for our homes. I understand the reality of family dynamics that make daily meals together nearly impossible- yet can we aim for one? Many parents are open to the idea of a weekly family meal- something a bit more achievable.
I was recently asked if the importance was the home cooked meal or the time together? That depends on the family. One family in my class shared how they valued a weekend evening of cooking together- all hands in as they prepared a 'home cooked' meal. She found joy in the process and appreciated the openness that came as they cut veggies and cleaned messes. Another family shared the value in sitting together- no matter where the meal came from- she appreciated the relaxed atmosphere of sitting together without a kitchen to clean, just time to focus on her family conversation. So, there is no wrong answer except not finding the time together.
My tips and tips from other families:
*plan it- it is more likely to happen if it is on the calendar
*be consistent yet flexible- is it a weekend thing that can be either Saturday or Sunday?
*ditch the phone- it's tough, but leave the gadgets in the other room for an hour (parents too)
*make it fit you- if cooking with your kids stresses you out, consider focusing on the table time instead of the cooking
*relax- new habits take time to establish, and older kids are more resistant to change
*bring baby along- even if the little one has eaten or is too small, bring them in their swing or sit them in the high chair with a few toys or cereal to nibble- this starts a habit of being at the table
With my children grown, I have to say those times of sitting around the table are precious to me; they may have been messy at times or even frustrating, but they were totally worth it!