7 Ways to Re-Connect With Your Family At Meal Times

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Do you feel you know your husband and kids well? and by knowing, I don’t mean just knowing their likes and dislikes, I mean really knowing what they are made of and being able to read their minds without saying a word. Do your kids talk to you on their own, or do you need to coax information out of their mouths? Are the family conversations limited to one-word answers, or is everyone so much into talking that you never realize its been more than an hour already??

When both parents are working to make a living, these questions are extremely important to determine how closely connected your family is. The pace of life is extremely fast these days – almost everyone is out of the house by 9 and meet again close to dinner time. Then there’s a rush to get chores done, work your way through dinner, get the dishes, get ready for the next day, maybe catch up on some personal errands and before you know it, its time for bed! With such a routine, it is often easy to neglect the connection between family members. According to a recent survey, one in four families say they feel like disconnected individuals living under one roof. This is where mealtimes come to your rescue. It is rightly said that Families that Eat together, Live together. Sharing the table together is an important part of fostering meaningful relationships and building healthy, strong families. That’s why Barilla wants to inspire, empower and support all families to share more meaningful meals together. Feeding America is the nation’s largest organization dedicated to fighting domestic hunger through a network of food banks, and Barilla supports that goal.

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Spending quality time at the table is especially important for emotional development of kids. This is the time that they can open up to their parents without any fear or inhibitions. It not only helps their personal development, but it is a known fact that kids that are able to communicate freely with their parents benefit from better grades and healthier habits and turn out to be more respectful, happy, attentive, confident, independent and hardworking than their peers who are deprived of such healthy family bonding. Adults also experience more happiness and less stress when they share an open relationship with their kids and spouses. So make the most of mealtimes to strengthen the bond of your family!

Here are some of the tactics that we use at home to make Mealtimes for more fun for the whole family. It is a time to get to know each other better, be in sync with what is happening in our individual lives, and re-connect with each other so that we can conquer this world as a family, not just as individuals.

No Gadget Policy
I implement this rule very strongly. No cell phones, ipads, ipods or any other gadgets are allowed on the dinner table. Some parents let their kids watch TV or iPads while eating so they can distract them and feed food into their mouths. While I am sure they have their own motive in doing this to get their kids to eat something, I strongly believe that this is a wrong way to feed them. Meal time is supposed to be a time where kids get to learn about the importance of eating colorful, nutritious food, understand taste and texture, and enjoy food, rather than just gobble it up. Any kind of distraction will take you away from the fundamental purpose of teaching them the value of food. So keep your phones and other distractions away as you enjoy the meal together.

Share Two Things About Your Day Rule
If you ask a Kindergardener something as vague as How was your day, you can’t expect much other than It was good, or It was OK….so we implement the Share two things rule – everyone on the table shares two things that were most important about the day. When its time for the kids to share their two things, we have noticed that they usually go beyond two most of the times, because once they ease into the conversation, it is easy for them to open up.

Say a Prayer or Turn on Relaxing Music in the Background
When I was growing up, we used to say a small Thank You god prayer before starting our meals. It was nothing elaborate, just a couple lines which calms us down, makes us focus on the food, and helps us be thankful for the meal that we are lucky to have. If this is too religious for your family, turn on some soft music in the background, maybe light up a small candle on the dinner table, and then get everyone to settle down. The idea behind this is to create a soothing atmosphere and get everyone to concentrate on the meal, rather than finish it up as a chore. You will see for yourself that when kids are calm and happy, they eat easily without fuss, and will also enjoy their food better. Let them make up their own prayers, or let them help you choose the music that will be played in the background – this will make them feel important and involved.

Play a Word Game
We have several different versions of the word game – sometimes we list a category and everyone says one word that falls into that category, or we speak a word and the next person says the first word that comes to his mind related to that word. You can improvise it as needed, but this creates a light-hearted atmosphere that makes meals more enjoyable. Its easy to laugh and eat, and takes the pressure off a single conversation. Just play a version where your kids can participate and feel important, and see how happily they will eat all the food that’s offered to them. Whining and forcing does not work well, instead, give them a lively happy place to enjoy their food, and you won’t have to fight a food battle.

Eating Backwards Day
Once in a while, we do this absurd but fun thing where we start our meal with the dessert first, and then eat the main course, followed by the appetizers. The kids are so excited about the whole thing that they gladly gobble up their food. Try something new – serve pancakes for dinner one day, or muffins and milk. Just a shift from the mundane routine helps bring us all together and creates happy memories about family meals.

Dinner Beyond the Dining Table
Once or twice a week, we move the dinner to the living room or the family room, or just grab our plates and eat buffet style around the fireplace. My daughter really looks forward to these days, because she gets to sit in her favorite chair and also light up her favorite candles. It just creates a natural mood for conversation when you move away from the formality of the dinner table. You’ll see that every one opens up much more easily, and you don’t need to coax anyone to talk about their day today!

Favorite Foods Friday
As the name suggests, on Friday, we try to cook one favorite food for each member of the family. And everyone helps cook the meal. We find that we all have much more fun making the meal than while eating it. Everyone is in the kitchen lending a helping hand, and naturally talking, laughing and connecting with each other. I ask everyone on Monday or Tuesday itself what they’d like to have on Friday so I ahve ample time to get everyone’s favorite food on the table. I just love the Friday meals, and its a tradition that even my kids will cherish and continue when they grow up!

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At our house, the dinner table is a place to not just eat food, but enjoy a lot of quality time as a family. What’s it like at your house? If you are like me, then go take a look at the Barilla Share The Table® launch video and go share your own story with the other readers.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Barilla. For every post using #ShareTheTable from now until 4/30/14, Barilla will donate a monetary equivalent of ten meals ($1.11) to Feeding America®, up to 1 million meals. Barilla will donate a maximum of $110,000. One dollar helps provide 9 meals secured by Feeding America® on behalf of local member food banks.


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