Patterns of modern life can make family meals the exception rather than the norm. Some of us can’t imagine a Meals@Home routine due to dual income schedules, business travel or children involved in a variety of extracurricular activities.
Establishing and protecting the family table will require making difficult, counter-culture choices. We can’t passively adopt unhealthy cultural norms and “hope for the best”. If a daily routine is impossible, take baby steps by establishing a pattern of at least three family meals per week.
While not every family meal will be home-cooked, part of its power comes from the preparation process, including…
Rules for Meals@Home
- Eager Anticipation: The time and effort invested preparing the meal creates a sense of anticipation for the gathering. The sights, sound and smells of cooking launch a ritual everyone knows will culminate together around the table.
- Memorable Aromas: Adults remember the smells from their childhood home more than any of the other four senses. The fragrances wafting from an oven, pan or crock-pot create lasting memories by making home a place children and teens want to be.
- Dignifying Roles: When we assign children a task in the process of preparing the meal, setting the table or cleaning the dishes we give them a sense of dignity and belonging that comes from fulfilling an
- important role in the central family ritual.
Family meals will be more fun if you follow several simple rules...
- Give Thanks: Before “diving in,” the family should pause to give thanks to God as a regular reminder of our dependence upon His grace and goodness.
- Be Present: A key goal of the Meals@Home routine is to foster good conversation; sitting facing one another provides a natural context for interaction . Turn off the television, smartphones, iPods and other forms of media and electronic communication.
- Spill Chill: Expect at least one spill during every family meal. Don’t lose your cool and spoil the meal. Instead, use it as a reminder that we are all imperfect human beings.
- Stay Positive: Family meals should be a highlight of each member’s day and not when their mistakes are brought up or reprimands are handed out. At the dinner table, limit yourself to addressing behaviour at the table and deal with the ‘other stuff’ privately.
- Heed Manners: The dinner table provides an ideal setting to reinforce basic manners such as how to carry on respectful conversation, looking others in the eyes when speaking to them, swallowing food before talking, saying “please” and “thank you” and many other basic rules of civilized interaction.