Mealtimes can be a powerful ritual in keeping you emotionally connected to your family. You may be a young couple or a family with small children or maybe a family with teens. Or an empty nest couple. All of these categories apply. When we are all so very busy with our lives having set times that we meet together is important. Mealtimes are a natural time to nourish our bodies physically & emotionally. It is not uncommon for me to hear families talk about all eating at different times or for some taking their food to their own separate space to continue with whatever they were doing – watching tv, playing a computer game, face-booking, continuing a work project, etc. This can be so easy to fall into with our busy lives. Here is some “food for thought” as to how to make mealtimes a powerful “connect time”.
Consider Your Family and It’s Current Mealtimes.
- What do you like about your current mealtimes in your home? What do you want to make sure that you keep in place?
- What do you NOT like? What do you wish would be happening instead? What would be the first step in doing what you feel is better?
- Do you have meals together? How often?
- What is the tone of your mealtimes? Positive? Negative? Lots of sharing or not so much?
- Are meals viewed as important in your household?
- Does everyone participate in putting meals together and or cleaning up after?
Make Your Meals an Awesome Connecting Ritual.
- Put Family Meals in Your Schedule. For so many of us, unless we schedule it, it will not happen. It may mean you have to do a healthy snack late afternoon to get everyone through until you can all re-unite. Or it may mean all eating early to accommodate early evening commitments. The point is to shift and adapt to make this a priority. There will be times it will not work for all of you to eat together, but for those that are there, go for this time together. For some very busy families, it may mean having a couple of times a week that are set in place, with an understanding that activities are not to be scheduled in that time frame. To start with if planning this is very challenging you might do one night a week to begin with.
- Let Everyone Have a Part in Meal Preparation and Cleanup . This will be different for different families. You might have one family that rotates children in the kitchen to help the parent who is making the meal or maybe children help clear the table, etc. At our house who ever cooks gets a pass on helping with cleanup. Do what fits for you and your family.
- No texting, No tweeting, No face booking, No phone calls at the dinner table. I am sure I missed a couple here. The point is that this is a special time you have set aside to eat and be together. This includes asking that no screen devices be brought to the table. Just too tempting. Some families have a basket where all phones are deposited at the beginning of the meal. I would even suggest to keep the environment peaceful that everyone mute their phones. Wouldn’t that be nice. No beeping, buzzing, ringing, etc, etc, And answering the home phone that is ringing is not ok unless you hear voice mail go through and it is a critical someone is very ill call. I stand a bit firm on this one, I guess because I see a real erosion of family time due to our current management of our very high-tech world we live in. You might consider this training for your children in how to handle screen time when they are with others.
- Consider Starting the Meal with a Time of “Gratitude” or “Thankfulness”. This could be in a prayer format if this fits for your family. Or it could be a new ritual you start by each saying something you are grateful for that happened that day. Even in a prayer format you could have each person do their own individual gratitude prayer. If all of this feels uncomfortable, you might just consider talking about these kinds of things during the meal.
- Feeling the “Love” of Family – Ask that no one disrespect the other or on purpose cause a conflict during mealtimes. Try to frame this as a time for you all to encourage and uplift one another.You can model by asking how each person’s day has been and really listen carefully and give encouragement when needed.
- As Parents or as a Couple Choose not to use This as a Time to Talk About Problems. Keep your meal times positive. This is not to say you should not address problems. Just at another time.
- A Fun Feeling Activity . One playful way of seeing how things are going for all is to have each person “choose a feeling” and ask each person to tell something that happened to them that day that fits with this feeling. For example: “What is the happiest thing that happened today?” Others might include: saddest, the best thing, the most weird, the most crazy, the funniest thing, the hardest thing, the easiest thing, the most surprising, etc. If a family member draws a blank then the person giving out the feeling state, can throw out another one. Just a fun way of checking out everyone’s day.
- Consider Asking All to Stay at the Table until Everyone is Finished Eating. This is just good manners and showing respect for one another. And if one does need to leave, maybe encouraging that they excuse themselves with why they need to leave from the table. Just a way to show you care and respect each other. Being respectful is one of the foundations for good relationships.
If you do your own fun mealtime rituals that work well, I would love to hear about them. Here is to lots of meals of connection with your family!