Last week, we talked about the importance of family dinner in a household. But with all the busy schedules and overwhelming workloads, we are always faced with these challenges. Here are some daily concerns from parents and tips to help you create a meaningful and connected family meal.
"My work always ends late. When I get home, my kids are done with dinner. And on weekends, my kids are packed with classes. We seldom have time to enjoy a meal together."
Juggling work and home can be difficult on weekdays, let alone enjoying a meal together with your family. But you can make it work. Discuss scheduling hours with your partner so you can at least fit one family meal (either breakfast, lunch or dinner) in a week. It is for parents to prioritise the whole family to share meals on the weekend.
"Everyone is on their screens during meal times. Does that still count as sharing meals together?"
Unfortunately, no. Sharing meals together means getting connected with one another. Often, we see families at home/restaurants eating and staring at their own screens, young children included. I understand it can be tiring and challenging for parents to make conversations and to make dinner fun for children. But, eating with screens defeats the objective of building relationships and connect with your family. Remember we talked about table manners and role models? Having screens on during family mealtimes indirectly tells our children that it is okay to not connect and engage with each other. So, be the role model you want your child to follow.
"I'm too drained from a long day of work, and I can't bring myself to make dinner for my family."
Parental exhaustion and stress can be one of the most challenging hurdles to family meals. We want to keep dinner simple and short, so we can rest and call it a day. But eating together shouldn't be anything stressful for the family. It should be a time for everyone to relax and recharge.
If you are constantly worrying about what to cook and what's healthy for the kids, it's time to cut yourself some slack. I want you to keep in mind that the food served on the table is not the main focus of a family dinner. It is the people who are seated at the table that matters most. We want to take this opportunity to connect and communicate with our kids and spouse during meal times.
"How do I get my teenage or adult kids to come home for dinner?"
It is natural for teenagers or adults to have work commitments, date nights and social hangouts with friends. But, it is also natural for them to spend at least once a week for family meals. Is there a specific pre-planned day and time where you and the kids will gather together for lunch or dinner?
Conflicting schedules can be an obstacle to family meals. But it's good to have a discussion with everyone to decide on a mutually agreed day and time to share a meal together. Even if it involves a change of schedule, so be it. Family meals are worth the effort.
"Family meals can be quiet and awkward. How do I make family meals engaging and positive for everyone?"
Aside from asking each other about work and schools, and the response is usually short and boring, you can consider switching it to something different. You can ask each family members to highlight the best and worst of their day. You can also include family decision making topics like what should we do for school holidays or weekends, which dress should you get, what type of movies should we watch in the cinema. Ask kids for their opinions and input about current issues or trending topics like fashion, food, cafes and dramas. Keep mealtimes fun and relaxing for everyone!