What if, a hundred years from now, somebody stumbled across your family calendar? What would they learn about what was important to you?
If you want to have regular family meals, the first step is to set aside a time they will happen and then, as much as you can, follow through. Consider scheduling extracurricular activities around your family time instead of reflexively squeezing your family to accommodate lessons, practices, and games. The skills we learn in family living serve us throughout life.
Most of us will still be part of a family long after we have given up ballet or soccer; cheerleading or violin. The feelings of rootedness and belonging make us better able to take on whatever jobs, or hobbies, we pursue later on. Also, it just feels good to count on getting together regularly, without having to make it a special occasion.
Try these tips:
- Set aside a time each day for a family meal. Mark it on your calendar. Let the family know that this is an important commitment.
- Have a table for them to come to. Provide a space that is cleared of homework, bills, projects, etc. Don’ resort to TV trays in the room. Eat facing each other.
- Say no to distractions. Turn off the TV. Don’t answer the phone. Declare this time interruption-free.
- Let family members know that they are expected to show up and engage in the ritual of the dinner.
- Set the tone. Take pleasure in each other’s company. Give everyone a chance to talk, and then listen respectfully. Keep it light, keep it fun.
- Save the lectures for another time.
- Make the food yummy and nutritious. Offer tasty dishes–it’s not about serving gourmet fare, it’s about serving practical, good food choices that appeal to everyone’s taste.
One of the things I hope for my family is that when they leave the security of the home where they were raised, they will eagerly look for opportunities to come home and spend time with us. Food connects people and families and I want our table to be a place of comfort and belonging to them.