You don’t have to look far to find information on the benefits of family meals, so why do they feel like a dying art? Sure, we bring everyone together for Thanksgiving and Christmas, but what about the other 363 days of the year?
Can I tell you my theory? We’re so focused on independence in the US, and it’s taking a toll on our families. Each person has their own priorities, causing parents to run in a million different directions. Monday and Wednesday are for baseball. Tuesday and Thursday are for dance. And that’s just when the kids are little. Once they get older the list of commitments grows, and their schedules get more demanding.
We’re sacrificing our interdependence on the alter of independence.
PLEASE, DON’T HEAR WHAT I’M NOT SAYING
I’m not saying there should be zero time spent figuring out what’s important to each of us as individuals. I spent a great deal of my youth figuring skating, playing softball, playing volleyball, and joining a whole slew of school clubs. I have a LOT of fond memories!
It’s true. If we’re only focused on the family unit we can miss the God-given passions and gifts that he’s given to each of us as individuals. Plus, we’ll potentially miss out on a lot of fun.
What I’m simply advocating for is balance, and sometimes in order to find balance we have to move away from good things. To find better things.
FAMILY MEAL BENEFITS
That quote up at the top of the blog lists a whole slew of benefits: better grades and resilience. Lower chance of substance abuse, depression, and obesity.
Anyone who had regular family meals can probably add in their own list of benefits. Feeling a greater sense of connection with your parents and siblings. Laughter. Memories.
If we look at those times with such fondness, and we know they’re good for us, why don’t we make them more of a priority? I don’t think it’s because we don’t care. I just think we don’t know how.
FAMILY MEAL CHALLENGES
We, humans, like to fit in with the crowd. Making family dinners a priority probably means that we’ll have to start doing things differently than all of our friends. Going against the grain (swimming upstream) is kind of against our nature, and it feels very odd. That’s a huge challenge.
If you decide all the current activities need to stay in place, then you can still prioritize family meals. It may just mean you’ll have to prioritize family breakfast. That’s going to mean waking up extra early. Maybe that means setting out everyone’s clothes and bags the night before. It’s a shift in routine. Again, a bit of a challenge.
You may need to create a meal schedule so you can make sure you aren’t just throwing random food together. The biggest challenge to having regular family meals (regardless of whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner) is the planning that goes into it. Just know that any change in routine is going to take some time before it feels normal.
Don’t give up. Embrace the suck 😁
FAMILY MEAL SUCCESS TIPS
Planning out the food is probably the hardest part of staying consistent with family meals. One tip is to get buy-in from the kids. Ask them each to come up with a meal idea for one specific day of the week. If they’re old enough, give them the added responsibility of cooking the meal (with your support – if necessary).
Think outside the box. Can you pick your kids up from school one day per month, and take them out to lunch as a family? Do that. Can you have a post-school snack together before running to the different activities? Do that. Your current season of life may or may not allow for what you naturally think of when you hear the term “family meals,” but that doesn’t mean you should give up.
Having a sense of family identity is so important for your marriage and for your kids. It’s worth the effort to figure out how you can make it work for your family, on a regular basis.
You can do it. We believe in you!
Because there’s a better way,
Sarah (and Trent)
PS: Conversation is one of the things that will kick your family meal up a notch (and make it feel less like a chore + more like an intention). Check out The Daily Grace Co. for conversation cards. When you sit down for a meal snag a card (or come up with your own list if you’re creative like that) and see where the conversation goes.