One day last fall I was teaching Introduction to Family Ministry at Oak Hills Christian College. I asked the class to draw a picture of their kitchen back when they were twelve years old. Students were encouraged to think about where family members sat around the table at meal time. They were asked to draw anything else that would symbolize their memories of times spent in the kitchen with their family. After this exercise students shared with each other their memories. I will never forget what one student shared. He said, “I don’t have any memories as a twelve year old with my family in the kitchen. Our family never spent any time together in the kitchen. We had to make our own meals. We ate whenever we were hungry. I am twenty one and not once have I enjoyed a meal with my entire family around the kitchen table.”
What will your children remember about meal time in your home? I have several memories as a twelve year old at meal time. There was lots of laughter and storytelling at meal time. Some of the stories told were exaggerated versions of the same story that was told months before. Quite often we had extra guests eating with us. As a former farmer boy I remember that the hired men and salesmen were always welcome to enjoy a meal with our family. Meal time can be a great time to enjoy meaningful conversation, laughter, storytelling and reminiscing about the current day’s activities. Meal time can be a great opportunity to spend time together with your family. How can meal time be an experience that is enjoyed? Below you will find some ideas that may be helpful.
- Time to Gather Regularly – When you regularly share meal time as a family over time you create a pattern worth repeating from one generation to the next. Kids look forward to eating together when it is a positive experience. So a question that parents need to ask is, “What can I do that would contribute to a positive meal time?” Our busyness competes with this time around the table. If we don’t meet regularly it doesn’t take long to start to feel disconnected as a family. If meal time is not a priority it doesn’t take long for the kitchen table to become just a place to throw school bags, to set the basket of unfolded laundry and to store last weeks unopened mail.
- Time to “Lighten Up” – Parents have a tendency to take themselves and life too seriously. Parents need to learn how to lighten up and laugh. Laughter helps to release tension and create safety for children to be themselves. Laughter creates a desire to come together more often.
- Time for Focused Attention – Meal time is a great opportunity for parents to provide focus attention for their kids. Family members feel loved and valued when they have your focused attention. Parents need to put their stressors from work behind them before they come to the table.
- Time for Positive Attitudes – When parents have a positive attitude it sets the tone for conversation around the table. We need to come to meal time with an attitude that helps relax family members. Intensity creates tension.
- Time for Meaningful Conversation – Meaningful conversation and storytelling can flow naturally when the atmosphere is positive, relaxed with laughter and fun. Asking caring and thoughtful questions can create opportunities for great conversation.
Are you providing for your kids focused attention, a positive attitude filled with laughter and fun at meal time? Why or Why not? What do your kids experience at meal time with you? Do you and your kids look forward to meal time? Why or Why not?