As part of our continuing pursuit in finding that elusive balance, I wanted to touch on the importance of family dinners. The good news is that research shows that adolescents and parents perceive family meals positively. It looks as though family meals could be a useful mechanism for enhancing family togetherness. They’re also good platforms for parents to model behaviors that they would like their children to emulate.
For younger kids, the benefits are further motivating… Wouldn’t we all love to enjoy our kids again, instilling in them more grace and courtesy as we prepare them for the privilege of an enjoyable dinner at a restaurant? (Getting them to eat more fresh more fruits and vegetables would be nice too.)
Read on for some tips for creating that vital ritual of family dinner:
- Set a regular dinnertime.
- Take on fewer activities if these are getting the way of family dinner.
- Prepare (or pick up pre-made) food to eat together at home.
- Include children in setting the table (a toddler placemat can empower littles to set the table).
- Turn off the TV and music and remove technology/phones/tablets from the table.
- Light a candle and/or dim the lights.
- Say a prayer or express gratitude for your time together and for the food.
During the meal consider:
- Serving very small portions for children – this gives them an opportunity to ask for more when they’re finished.
- Trying a “silent meal” for young children (we will have an entire blog on this soon).
- Discussing news topics and current events — they can be a great way to engage older children and teens in meaningful conversation. Don’t forget to enjoy conversation about the food – mindful eating is powerful!
When the meal is over:
- Compliment the cook (Dad or Mom can lead by example).
- Encourage everyone to clear his or her own plate (i.e. don’t leave dirty dishes on the table for parents to clean up).
- Assign each family member an age-appropriate post-meal cleanup task to foster family cooperation.
If you’re struggling to make it a habit, just start with one consistent weekly night and you can work your way up to more. Need an easy meal plan to start? I leave you with our organic dinner from last night. Enjoy!
Here is an outline for one of our favorite simple homemade meals:
- Stovetop Brown Rice
- Steamed Broccoli
- Baked Free-Range Chicken
- Wheat-Free Tamari (aka soy sauce) – Hint: give toddlers the choice of a healthy sauce to pour on food and they will eat anything!
- Filtered Water
- Organic Red Wine
- Fresh peaches for dessert
Dr. Kate Naumes, ND runs a Holistic Wellness practice just off the Katy trail. She believes that healthy, happy, and fulfilled women are essential to a healthy, productive world. Learn more at naumesnd.com.