If you are like most parents I work with, you likely have a dream dinnertime scenario: the entire family, kids and adults, all sitting around the same table, at the same time, eating the same food.
Easy right? Not so much. No matter how many times we see this scene play out on TV and in the movies, it’s tough to make family meals happen with any sort of regularity.
Here are some of the most common complaints I hear:
· My child is so picky that I have to make her a separate dinner or else she won’t eat!
· One of my children has food allergies, so eating the same meal just isn’t feasible!
· My children eat dinner much earlier than my husband and me!
· I can’t get my child to stay at the dinner table!
Sound like your family? Even in today’s world when so many parents are working from home and children are doing remote school, it seems like our lives haven’t gotten any less chaotic.
But family dinners are an important goal to maintain. Not only are they more convenient for the parents, but research has proven that there are numerous benefits for the children as well, including:
· Higher academic performance
· Increased intake of healthy foods
· Better bonding with family members
· Improved mental health
Here are some tips for organizing and enjoying family dinners that can work for any household.
· Set realistic expectations. Even if a daily 6 p.m. dinnertime with a well-balanced, multi-course meal and lively dinnertime conversation doesn’t seem realistic for your family, don’t abandon the idea entirely.
· Start with 1-2 family meals per week. You can designate a specific day of the week or check everyone’s calendar at the beginning of the week to determine which day/s would work best.
· Include just one food item on the table that you know everyone can enjoy together. You never know, they may surprise you and eat something on the table that you didn’t expect!
· Instead of letting your child watch TV, turn on music during dinner instead.
Just remember that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing in order to enjoy the benefits of family meals. Take baby steps and slowly work up to your family dinner dream in a way that works for your specific family.