If you were offered a sure-fire way to improve the physical and mental well-being of everyone in your family; to help your children feel loved, safe and secure and develop their social skills, would you jump at the opportunity?  Most parents would! What’s this amazing product and where do we get it? What’s it cost?  It’s going to cost some time, but not as much as you might think. Packed schedules for both parents and children mean that certain things suffer and one of the most important is spending time together and enjoying family meals.

Our busy lifestyle can make eating together challenging, but it is well worth the effort it takes. The family meal table should ideally be a place for the whole family to de-stress. Most of us want to have good quality time with our children and the family meal table provides a safe place to do that. Asking children about their day and genuinely listening to their response, shows them that they’re a valued member of the family and shows respect for who they are. Doing so at the meal table seems to be less confronting for a child than having a deep one-on-one with a parent. Sharing the dinner table with babies and toddlers can be messy, but is well worth doing. Mealtimes can be very noisy, especially as they become teenagers, but it’s a happy noise. The dinner table is not the place to bring up misdemeanours or chastise children. Far better to do that privately.

I know when our family was growing up, the only place where we were all regularly together was the meal table. It was probably the only place where we all connected and engaged together at a deeper level. My husband worked in the city, so we rarely ate before 7. Looking back, I am grateful that we did that. We never had the TV on at mealtimes, and fortunately, didn’t have to contend with devices. A good family rule is no devices on at mealtimes – and definitely none at the table.

Our girls always enjoyed the times when we shared our table with visitors. Our oldest daughter’s boyfriend didn’t know what hit him when he first started eating at our place with five girls trying to outdo each other. His family was very quiet and he frequently commented to our daughter how noisy her family were. Well, now I take great delight in teasing him (yes, they married) as their family is even noisier at the meal table!   Each family has to discover what works best for them. Shift work can make it difficult, but it’s worth trying to find ways to eat together most days.

Children can help in planning, preparation and cleaning up afterwards and in so doing, develop valuable life skills. Meals don’t have to be elaborate creations. Eating together is a tradition that spans all cultures and generations and I highly recommend it if you want to get to know your children better. Even if there are only two of you – one parent and one child, you can still make that time together special.

I hope you and your family have a blessed time these holidays and get to enjoy some meals together.