Our lives and schedules are so busy it can be difficult to find the time to sit down together as a family and share a meal. Breakfast is on the go. We rush through lunch. Dinner must be quick and easy before hustling little ones off to bed. Even as a FTM I often struggle to sit down for breakfast with the chaos of trying to clean up and get out the door. If you can, make eating together a priority. Whether you can do it for 3 meals a day or just 1 special family meal, find the time.
Eating together isn’t just about food, it’s about connection.
When we really stop and listen closely to our children during meal time we can learn a lot. Take note of your child’s reactions to food through a loving lens and tune in to their preferences. Their upsets and explosions say far more than they can articulate with words and are not always meaningless overreactions. We learned through trial and error that Joel does not like things that are too saucy so now sauce is always on the side for Joel. This allows him to control the dish within the confines of the meal. He’s given the tools, but he is the artist of his dining experience and can dip, mix and pour to his heart’s content.
It may seem trivial to mince words, but we are constantly sending messages to our kids with the language we use – verbal and non-verbal. Do you push food around on your plate? Over-eat? Shove food in your mouth so quickly because you’re too busy to sit down at the table and chat? Pause and think how your attitudes towards food may be impacting your kids. Monkey see, monkey do. If you want your kids to eat well you have to make sure you’re nourishing your body too. Research shows that kids that observe their parents dieting are more likely to have issues with food. When you’re eating healthy foods that make your body feel good there’s no need to count calories or measure quantities.
Detoxing from devices. In our house there is no technology allowed during mealtimes. This is a hard and fast rule. Think about the last time you ate a meal in front of the tv. When we’re mesmerized by screens the mind and body connection is lost. You don’t want to trick your kids into eating, you want them to be mindful and learn when their bellies are full. Not learning this skill early on can lead to obesity and a shortened attention span. Instead, talk about your day. Tell stories. Discuss what you are all eating – describing the food, the textures, the flavors, smells will all help build their food vocabulary so they can better explain what they like and don’t like. Knowledge is power so if the issue is texture, sweetness, spice – these are all things you can work with to create meals that are more likely to go down well.
Remember every family is different and what we do might not work best for others. If you can find a way to love meal-time with your family it’s most likely to be a positive joyous thing instead of a chore. Cook foods you love, find ways to minimize stress and enjoy those little moments and you really cant go wrong.