Recently I’ve been doing a great deal of research for my upcoming book and I discovered overwhelming research that supports what I already knew. That is the No. 1 strategy to build a strong family across all cultures is to have regular shared mealtimes.
Mealtimes provide the opportunity for family members to connect with each other in a meaningful way. They give parents a chance to influence children’s thinking as well as teach them how to be social and sociable. More importantly, they form bonds between people within families and build a sense of belonging, which is a fundamental human need.
Make mealtimes non-negotiable
Rituals and celebrations in families are generally negotiable the older children become. However a daily shared meal is the one ritual that shouldn’t be up for negotiation. Expect kids of all ages to turn up for each meal.
Involve everyone in mealtimes
A feature of successful mealtimes across multiple cultures is that as many people in the family are involved in preparation as possible. This is done in two ways. Either many people assist in the preparation of most meals (that is, someone cooks, someone lays the table, someone clears the table and the like) or the preparation is rostered so that people take it in turns to prepare the meal. Both strategies give family members a sense of ownership.
Be flexible with mealtimes
If you can’t get everyone in your family to sit at the meal table at night consider making breakfast the main meal. Be flexible with your organisation and make mealtimes work for you.
From a mental health perspective young people who have more than five shared each week with their parents have better mental health than those who don’t have regular family meals. Experts aren’t sure why but the assumptions are that shared meals give parents a chance to monitor their young people as well as giving young people the chance to talk, which is therapeutic when life doesn’t go their way. Whatever way you look at it shared meals should be high on every parent’s MUST DO list this year.