The family meal should be a time of sharing, serving, and communicating with one another. Yet, many families admit they have dropped the tradition, or even that those meals have become pitched battles. In other cases, they’ve become rushed or distracted, and the meaning of the moment is lost.
So here are a few tips for recovering this important family tradition and restoring it to what it should be: a time of sharing, unity, and love.
1. Aim for once a day, or at least once a week
It’s important to remind our children, especially adolescents and young adults, that family time is important. Try to coordinate study and sports schedules so that everyone can be together for a family meal every day, or at least one day per week.
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2. Goodbye, technology!
Mealtime is for sharing with those who are physically near us. It’s a good idea for everyone to turn off their cell phones, or to put them someplace far away from the table. It’s important to remember that parents should be the first to keep this rule: example is the best way to teach.
3. Pay more attention to content than to form
Although it is true that a family meal is the time to teach good table manners, we can’t let that be our main goal. What is truly important is that there be topics of conversation in which everyone can participate, that there be an atmosphere of trust in which family members can share their experiences. The meal should be an enjoyable time for all. We can correct some table manners, but let’s try not to interrupt quality time by nagging.
4. Teach consideration
We must know how to serve if we want to help others. Family meals are a very good moment to pay attention to others’ needs. We can do that by filling the glass of the person sitting next to us, asking them what piece of chicken they want, or helping clear the table. If we know how to serve others well, our children will realize how good it is to be together as a family.
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5. A little bit of preparation isn’t a bad idea
We can be creative with some regional foods as a way of learning more about the geography and culture of where that dish came from. Or we can simply think ahead about a good topic of conversation so that we can encourage our children to talk about topics that are important and relevant today. With shared creativity and a bit of preparation, we can make the ordinary extraordinary.
6. Always be thankful
Model gratitude, whether it be by saying grace to thank God for the food, or simply by mentioning reasons why we are thankful at that moment. Thankfulness is much more than good manners; it’s an attitude that acknowledges that many of the things we have were given to us. As the saying goes, “Gratitude is the sign of noble souls” (Aesop).
May family meals be one of many elements that foster our family unity, and may we learn how to transform this daily routine with a human touch that makes our family life a true treasure.