These days, the idea of gathering the family together in the same place at the same time may seem impossible, but it can be done. Having a meal together as a family may not look like Sunday dinners of a generation ago. However, the goal can still be the same. Family mealtime provides an opportunity to spend time with family members and talk. Eating together can help families feel closer and provide better nutrition — two ingredients for happy, healthy families.

Family members today often have varied schedules which can make it challenging to eat dinner together.

Have you ever felt that the communication in your family consists of “hello,” “goodbye”, and notes left to one another? This happens a great deal in families today with busy work and activity schedules. Family mealtime can provide an opportunity for all family members to be together and share what is happening. Use family mealtime as a chance to have pleasant conversations. Save those tough conversations for another time. Have a rule that if disagreements start during a family meal, the family members will set aside another time to deal with the issue.

Every family develops patterns of how they operate as a group. These patterns are passed down from generation to generation. They are based on our culture and what we value. Knowing about our heritage helps us understand our family. Our cultural and ethnic background contributes to the uniqueness of our family. Mealtime can provide a setting to teach your children about their heritage.

Parents are the first teachers. Children learn a great deal from their parents about social manners, how to communicate, and healthy eating habits. Family mealtime can be an opportunity for parents to model appropriate table manners, healthy food choices and listening skills. Children get the opportunity to practise these skills, which will be important throughout their lives.

If schedules do not coincide for an evening meal, maybe the family would enjoy gathering for dessert or a bedtime snack. Compare schedules, and then pick a night at a specific time. Make it clear you expect everyone to keep his or her schedule clear for at least an hour that night. Turn off the TV. (May not be possible as “serial killers” rule the roost from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.)

Although the dinner hour once represented a calm oasis from the day’s storm, experts say today it’s often anything but relaxing. With blaring TVs, ringing cell phones and e-mail alerts chiming in the background, in some homes, the dinner hour is every bit as stressful as the rest of the day.

Families that eat together more often probably also communicate more often. Family mealtimes are a way to increase the time you spend talking and it is the best time to de-stress.

philip1957@gmail.com

More In: Open Page | Opinion