Table Tuesdays (family mealtimes) Initiative

Table Tuesdays, a Life Talk initiative about the power of family meal times. Using family meals as a parenting tool to re-connect your family.

When was the last time you and your family sat down together, away from distractions, to eat a meal?
 Family mealtimes are a powerful, almost magical and yet often overlooked parenting tool.
 

Table Tuesdays are about re-connecting your family by having dinner together on a Tuesday evening (or any other suitable day). Mealtimes are a wonderful opportunity for communication, for learning about what’s going on in each other’s lives – and for conveying values. Many families no longer eat meals together, around a table, away from the TV and cell phone. Life’s pressures often take precedence and we’re fast losing our connection to each other.

Many studies, including the comprehensive ones done by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University, show that: compared to teens who have frequent family dinners (five or more per week), those who have infrequent family dinners (two or fewer) are far more likely to abuse prescription drugs, use marijuana; smoke cigarettes, and get drunk.

Studies have also shown that children who eat healthy home cooking with their families, tend to develop more healthy eating habits, eat more fruit and vegetables and are less prone to eating disorders.

How to get started?

  • Keep it simple & fun

  • Cell phones & televisions off!

  • Take turns to set and decorate the table

  • Each family member can get a turn to choose a simple, healthy dish.

  • Getting kids to join in the cooking not only develops new skills, it’s also great for bonding and building self-esteem.

  • Change where you have your dinner – in the garden, in the kitchen, around a fire, on the floor, have a pyjama dinner …

  • Even if the meal is a take-away, still eat it together.

  • Create some ground rules – eg create your own family ‘talking stick’

  • Be fully engaged by listening intently and not interrupting each other

  • Ask questions… ‘How long have you thought like this?  What could you do differently?  Why do you say that?  How would it be if you … ?  What are your choices?’

  • Comments… ‘What an interesting way of looking at it; Tell me more;  Thank you for sharing…’

  • Give positive feedback…

  • Keep mealtimes enjoyable, leaving such things as school reports or the day’s misdemeanours for another place/time.

  • Create your own family mission statement. Define your family ‘brand’, values, virtues and aspirations.

  • Discuss:

    • What really matters to you?

    • What makes you feel alive?

    • What do you wish you could change?

    • What would you love to do together?

    • What makes for good table manners (and how they encourage respect for others around the table, and the benefits when dining elsewhere…

  • Invite your children’s friends to join in, making them feel welcome and encouraging home-based activities instead of seeking entertainment elsewhere.

  • If family mealtimes are an unfamiliar concept in your home consider starting off with one a week and gradually building up to a daily routine.

What can family mealtimes do for your family?

The benefits are limitless! They include:

  • Connecting

  • Sharing - feelings, thoughts, values, opinions, fears, successes

  • Laughter

  • Teaching and learning opportunities

  • Dreaming and planning

  • Gaining insight into each other’s worlds

  • Inspiration

  • Bonding

  • Recharging batteries; slowing down

  • Living in the moment

  • Problem solving

  • Building self-esteem

  • Children pick up language, vocabulary and communication skills

  • Listening and debating

  • Enhancing general knowledge

  • Better school marks

  • Discussing current challenges and exploring the best ways of dealing with aspects such as: alcohol, drugs, sex, bullying, peer pressure, safety (and the range of others our children face)

  • Acquiring good eating habits and manners from parental example

  • Passing on family stories, history, heritage and anecdotes

  • Providing a role model on which our children can base their lives

In today’s challenge-filled world, family mealtimes are an invaluable aid.
Their benefits act as a ‘life-jacket’ that helps children to cope with life’s inevitable challenges.

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