Friday, March 19, 2010

Getting it off my chest - Family Meal Time

This morning at Henry's ECFE (Early Childhood Family Education), the parent discussion topic was picky eaters. The facilitator was going over the list of ways in which we can help keep our children from being picky eaters and how to work with our picky eaters to keep expanding their world of food. I truly believe our children are born with some of their eating habits - Charley ate EVERYTHING and Henry is very picky. I did very little different with them from the start. But I do believe there are things we do as parents that can emphasize picky eating habits or help our children move onto stretching their diet horizons.

One of the points made this morning focused on sitting down and making meal time social. One of the moms brought up that this makes her uncomfortable because she thinks one of the problems with obesity in America results from thinking of eating as a social experience - and I understood where she was coming from. Lots of social is associated with eating. I only got a second to think about my response and when it got to me I did have a second to share my view - but on my drive home I got frustrated that I didn't have a chance to explain my ideas further - and I know the facilitator didn't get to either. So here is my thinking:

My issue with kids and obesity revolves more around snacks. I pointed out that today most mom's can whip out at least 1 and sometimes 3 snacks from her purse at any moment. I have done it - when I need them occupied in a waiting room, when they are whining in the car, when they ask at a park etc. I really, truly think, that family dinners are not to blame! So strongly - I can't begin to tell you how strongly.

There are children that graze all day - on healthy and unhealthy choices but they never sit down and eat a balanced meal with conversation and table manners. And yes, maybe what they are consuming is more healthy in many instances - but, for most children, snacking is not the healthiest food intake of their day.

I will admit that I do not sit down with my children at breakfast and lunch every day. I know I probably should. However, this is my chance to get the kitchen cleaned up, laundry switched etc. My boys chatter away and their relationship grows with every meal.

Family dinner time for me has always been about our family (mama, daddy, Charley, and now Henry) sitting down together at dinner time. One mom countered that her family spends plenty of time with each other so meal time isn't important.

Yes, we spend plenty of time together.  I, for sure, spend my whole day with my boys. However, I do not spend my whole day looking at them, asking them questions about their day, letting them see me ask their daddy how his day was etc.  Family dinner to me is about a balanced meal, conversation revolving around sharing and problem solving, table manners, learning how to converse and sit quiet.

I know that at this age we also get this conversation time with our little ones before bed - BUT, when my boys are 10 or 15.... I am thinking I won't be tucking them in at night and having some cozy conversation cuddled up after reading a book or two. So when else am I going to get them to sit down DAILY, showing them that they have a FAMILY that supports and cares for them. I am plan on depending on family meal time as our chance to remind our children that we are here, we are strong, we are grounded, and we CARE ABOUT THEIR DAILY LIVES! And when sports and evening activities start to invade our family meal time - adjustments will be made - but they will ALWAYS KNOW that dinner will be served in our house. And their mom and dad will be waiting, ready to listen.

This is how I grew up and I really believe it gives a family a strong foundation. Yes, there are instances where a parent works in the evening or children have extra curricular activities - I would make adjustments and make weekend meals a priority or make sure to have breakfast with them...or set up a family meeting time.

But if family dinners can work in your family- take the opportunity and don't waste the chance. It can be a life long opportunity to connect with your children - and in today's day of technology and lifestyle - connections are key for children when making the healthy choices in life.

Do you do anything fun with family meal time to make it fun or special? Or do you have a different opinion on family meal time? PLEASE SHARE!  I have more posts related to family dinner time coming in the next week!

Welcome friends from NEW FRIEND FRIDAY...thanks for visiting. 


Messy Mommy said...

We really need to be better about family meal times! I saw on a blog once a conversation meal jar thing where you write questions on paper and put them in the jar, then someone reads it and you have dinner conversation! I really need to find that site! She gives you the questions every month!

Anonymous said...

Trying to not create issues with eatting is the EXACT reason I have started trying to cut back on using snacks as a 'crutch'. If we are out during our normals snack time (3:00-ish), I will bring something along for them, but if not, I bring along stickers or a small tablet of paper and some crayons. It rarely goes over as well as the snacks, but my kids are slowly learning that shopping does not equal eatting.

And I too am guilty of not sitting down with my kids for breakfast or lunch (at least not for the whole meal) - I am always in the kitchen (or the laundry room, which is adjacent to it) with them, but if I want to get to bed at a decent hour and spend time playing with them when we are not eatting, I have to use those meals to fold laundry, pay bills, or clean-up. Dinner, however, is all of us, every night, without fail.

Beth said...

AMEN! Wonderfully well written post and awesome point of view! Your children are blessed! Stand firm!

Anonymous said...

Definitely have a hard time with family meals at my house! Great blog! I am visiting from new friend friday at the Girl Creative and loving finding new blogs!

Willa said...

I like your reminder on the sidebar.We,parents all need it.
Btw,I found your blog thru Follow Me Friday at Trendy House. :)
Happy Weekend!!

Anonymous said...

I totally believe in family dinner. BIG time. That IS the time I remember spending with family. Besides church-I feel like it really was the main time we spent as a family. So so so important. If you're dinner plate is balanced with the right foods-there is no chance of overeating the wrong things. It should not in any way cause obesity? RR

Anonymous said...

Even in my little bitty house with no sit-down kitchen and no dining room, we're try to have family dinners. It's hard with a toddler demanding attention and getting the food timing right, but we're giving it our best shot. Thanks for the reminder!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for visiting my blog. Following you :)

Kelly said...

Amen!! Meal time is very important at our house. I do sit down with C during breakfast and usually lunch also, but I have a feeling that might be about to change :) I grew up eating dinner as a family and my parents still do it to this day- so awesome!

Sarah D. said...

Sarah I know I don't comment much anymore but I had to on this one - I COULD NOT AGREE MORE! Not only has it become one of my favorite parts of the day but my children as well. Braden and Olivia love sharing their "favorite moments" from the day and having the full attention at the table. Thanks for sharing. :)

Ellemes said...

I had a student that did a persuasive speech on the benefits of family meal time last year. She had a ton of statistics on how important it was. It was really interesting.

I admit that we don't have family meal time everynight, but we do try. I think it is really important.

Crystal said...

100% agree - we make it a priority to eat dinner together as a family. My 3 year old tells his dad what we did during the day and we always tell each other what our favorite part of the day was. Even when he doesn't want to eat, we still make him sit with us until we're done.

I too am guilty of giving away snacks too freely. So easy to do!

Great post!


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