Meal times can be one of the most important ways to build, strengthen and enjoy family relationships! As parents, we often think of good nutrition as the main reason for family meals. I would suggest that nutrition is less important than enjoying pleasant family conversation and connection.
As parents, you can choose to keep meal times less stressful and more meaningful by deciding not to force children to eat certain kinds and amounts of food. Sounds radical, right??! Not really. Explain the following things to your children:
- The most important thing about meal time is being together as a family. Eating is less important.
- Children will be able to choose what and how much they will eat from the food provided at the table. If they choose not to eat what is provided, they may wait until the next meal to eat - which might be breakfast, but they must remain at the table to participate in the family time.
- Parents also may choose to allow children to eat whatever fruits and vegetables are on hand, but will not prepare additional food because children choose not to eat what has been prepared and served.
- Explain that the family will talk calmly about a wide variety of topics such as, books the children are reading, memories of family vacations, dreams, jokes, wishes, world problems, news stories, school, the "old days" and funny experiences. Keep the conversations light, but also full of deep content.
You may be wondering about good nutrition. As a rule, children will eat what is most available to them to get the nutrition their bodies need. When you transition to a focus on family relationships, you also might want to reduce the availability of low nutritional food options that are present in your home. It would not be healthy for children to refuse the nutritious food you provide at dinner and then snack all evening on cookies, cakes and candy. Instead keep celery, carrots, peppers, mushrooms, apples, oranges, bananas and other nutritious foods available.
You can adapt this concept any way you want to make it work for your family. Send me some comments to let me know how it works in your home. I have attached a link with some statistics that are enlightening about this topic. Bon appetite!