Taking the time to have a meal together has positive effects on young minds as well as fostering closer relationships. Children who grow up sharing family meals show improved social skills and less aggressive behaviours as they grow older.

It’s so easy get distracted when we’re eating by being busy, using our phones, or trying to get some extra work done. Many of us feel we aren’t being productive if we aren’t multitasking. It can feel like sitting down for a meal is a luxury. However, when the holidays come around, we find ourselves making extra effort to enjoy a meal with friends and family.

It turns out, taking the time to have a meal together has positive effects on young minds as well as fostering closer relationships. A long-term study from University of Montreal (2017) found that children who grow up sharing family meals show improved social skills and less aggressive behaviours as they grow older.

Here are some ideas to keep that family closeness going all year round:

Take Turns Choosing a Meal Every Week

Whether you’re in a couple or have a large family at home, this can help to spice up the menu. It also helps younger members of the family contribute to the planning process and feel they have a voice in decision making.

Make the Meal Together

This extends the camaraderie past simply eating the food. It could also give your household’s designated cook(s) some reprieve while improving the cooking skills of other family members.

But what do I say?

Sharing a meal gives the perfect opportunity to check in with others. As a child, you probably often heard “What did you learn in school today,” which is a perfectly valid question. However, we can bring in some positive psychology in by asking “What was good about today,” “What are you grateful for today,” or “What went right today?” This is especially effective if done daily, as it causes a subtle mental shift — if you know that question is coming up, you’ll start to notice more positive events during the day, which causes you to think more positively. These could range anywhere from “I got a raise” or “I got an ‘A’ on my test” to “I took five minutes just for myself to relax today.”

It Doesn’t Have to be Dinner

Maybe dinner doesn’t match with your schedules. That’s fine — designating time to spend together as a family is the real goal. To make things fair, allow each member of the family to have input on the activity. The easiest way to do this is to rotate who chooses what to do that week/month. Another approach is to have each person come up with a few ideas, write them down, then randomly draw them from a hat. Some examples include:

  • Family Game Night, where a different family member chooses a game each week
  • Brunch
  • Seeing a movie
  • Taking a family walk
  • Going to a sports game
  • Visiting a park

Although it can be difficult to get everyone together, the important thing is that you are taking some time to disconnect from our busy lives and reconnect with friends and loved ones.

Source: University of Montreal. (2017, December 14). Eating together as a family helps children feel better, physically and mentally: Long-term effects of family meals in early childhood. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 11, 2018 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/12/171214092322.htm