Updated: Mar 17, 2022
One of the most important daily activities families can do together is have regular meals!
Anne Fischel - author of Home for Dinner and Associate Clinical Professor of Psychology, Harvard Medical School says,"As a family therapist, I often have the impulse to tell families to go home and have dinner together rather than spending an hour with me. And 20 years of research in North America, Europe and Australia back up my enthusiasm for family dinners. It turns out that sitting down for a nightly meal is great for the brain, the body and the spirit."
There are many benefits to having family meals together:
Improves vocabulary of young children
Higher achievement scores
Nutritional benefits and less likely to be obese
Warm dinner atmosphere helps reduce anxiety and stress
Decrease high risk behaviors
Positive moods and positive outlook on the future
Better relationships and connection between family members
Improved communication skills
Higher self esteem
AND......more mindful eating without stress aids food digestion!
Imagine if you had daily meals together AND gained the above outcomes?
The food and being together doesn't automatically guarantee these results; it`s how you are BEING at the table. While having a meal together, it`s important to create a calm, connected atmosphere.
Mealtimes ensure PAUSE and PRESENCE; time to interact with your family to reconnect and re-calibrate relationships.
Mealtimes should offer a peaceful atmosphere and "time-out" from the busyness and stress of this confusing world we live in.
"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." 1 Corinthians 10:31
Here are some ideas to improve family meal times together:
All phones should be put away, and ALL media switched off (unless your family enjoys calming music in the background). You could set up a basket in a central place where everyone puts their phones away during mealtimes.
Consistency is key, so stick to the plan.
Use mealtimes to debrief the day and check in to see how everyone is doing. Avoid the usual eye rolling questions like "how was school today?"
What was something interesting you learnt about today?
What are you learning about yourself?
What went really well?
What didn't go so well?
What are you finding challenging?
These debriefing conversations could include topics like forgiveness, managing emotions, world concerns, salvation, disappointments, friends, and more.
Often this will lead to another deeper conversation or discussion around that topic which brings me to my next point.
This is where you really get to hear each other’s point of view and encourage critical thinking. Your children want to feel heard and valued as they share their opinions and ideas regardless of whether you agree with their point of view or not. Showing up as a coach parent is important as parents get curious about their ideas and thoughts and really hone in on listening. Focus on hearing them instead of trying to solve or giving your opinions.
What got you thinking about ........(the homeless)?
What do you mean by ........ (fair)?
What’s important to you about .....(helping others)?
How do you know that’s true?
Give them space to talk about hard things, especially controversial or secular ideas. Have conversations about topics that challenge your family values and a biblical worldview so you encourage critical thinking and share and communicate openly. You can use stories, metaphors, or parables for learning opportunities.
Get to know your children and appreciate their uniqueness and differences. A coach parent shows up curious, encouraging more dialogue and conversation. A boss manager parent tries to fix the problem, or gives constant advise. Children need to feel valued and know their ideas matter. Listen, don`t lecture, so they feel SEEN and HEARD.
Dance in the moment; laugh, have fun, use humor, and joke around with your kids. Create a fun environment at the table. This will obviously not happen all the time but be aware if mealtimes need a change.
I would try and avoid getting into disputes or heated arguments at the dinner table. If a discussion is getting heated, simply tell the family that this would be a good time to postpone the discussion and to continue after the family mealtime. It also gives everyone time to recollect thoughts, calm down and enjoy the meal together. I would also not ignore the topic or the conflict as it`s important to train children how to deal with conflict and have those hard conversations with respect, and kindness.
Think of the mealtime connection as a "re-framing of your lens" after a stressful day, and realigning to your family values. The mealtime could be the key to changing your “picture” and focusing on the beauty of connecting with the most important people in your life.
The importance of adding calm and creating a positive mealtime experience helps children deal with stress and anxiety as they feel loved, safe and secure.
It is said that couples who"pray & play together, stay together." We can add that families who"eat together, stay together.”
You are creating a stronger family bond that will see you through difficult times because it`s all about relationships!
Happy Mealtime Meetups!
Resources to support parents with coaching tools and strategies in preparing adolescents for life and career success.
If you interested in learning more about how to be a parent coach, and experience transformation in yourself, and your relationships with your teenagers, join a supportive group coaching community. How would it feel if you could take a break from being supermom to the rescue and your teenagers could advocate for themselves?