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Making Mealtime Manageable

Posted , updated Jun 16, 2005.

Making Mealtime Manageable

Parents are the first and primary teachers of their children. What parents view as important, their children are also likely to view as important. Most families aren’t picture perfect at mealtime, with everyone sitting down at the dinner table to share a meal and time together. Today’s family life is just too busy for some families to make time for such time-honored rituals as mealtime. Families with young children may find the task even more daunting as they try to find foods that young children will eat and the rest of the family will enjoy too.

Many things can spontaneously happen during a family meal:

  • We share family stories.
  • We support one another by offering help for concerns or struggles.
  • We share family values and expectations.
  • We problem solve.

So, if your life is hectic, how can you begin to change the pace of your life and find time to share a meal? The United States Department of Agriculture, Nibbles for Health Newsletter has some good ideas:

  • Set a regular family mealtime. This will give your child a chance to try a variety of foods in the right amounts. If dinner doesn’t work for your family try making breakfast the family meal.
  • Make it simple and quick. Simple meals, even cold sandwiches, taste as good as meals that take longer to prepare. This also gives you more time to spend together as a family.
  • Show that family meals are important. Turn off the TV and don’t answer the phone.
  • Eat around a table. It is easier to talk and listen when you are facing each other.
  • Enjoy meal talk. Make easy conversations—don’t nag or complain. Allow everyone a chance to talk.
  • Be realistic. Try to sit down together. Keep meals from lasting too long. If kids get fussy, your family meal won’t be fun. Wait until everyone is done to be excused.

The rituals you begin today with your young children will likely make a lasting impact. A large national study of American teenagers found a strong link between regular family meals and a wide range of positive outcomes: academic success, psychological adjustment, and lower rates of alcohol use, drugs use, early sexual behavior, and suicidal risk. Starting today may help your children succeed in the long run!

Source: Putting Family First by William Doherty & Barbara Carlson. Owl Books, 2002.

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