We all know that there are huge physical and psychological benefits to eating meals together as family. But the idea of getting everyone to sit down together for a family meal can feel impossible!
For some reason when we think about a family meal, we immediately picture dinner. But, with our kids early bedtimes, you or your partner may get home from work too late for the kids to wait to eat with you. Or, although you may have your ‘kid friendly’ meal ready by 5:30pm, you probably only get a chance to cook your ‘adult’ meal after you’ve put your little ones to bed. With competing night-time schedules, work shifts and dinner preferences, eating dinner together as a family can be a logistical nightmare.
So, I thought I’d let you in on my number 1 hack to getting more family meals into the week….
What if we take the focus off dinner altogether and start with the first and most important meal of the day…. Breakfast.
Here’s why Breakfast is our favourite time to share meals together in our family:
- Timing: Whilst we all have different dinner and bedtimes, we’re all up at the same time in the mornings (thanks to our human alarm clock in toddler form).
- Ease: Unlike many dinner recipes, breakfast options like toast, cereal, yoghurt and fruit are all really simple meals that take minimal time to prepare and are crowd pleasers for kids and parents alike. This means that within the time it takes for a piece of bread to pop out the toaster, we can all be enjoying a fuss-free meal together at the breakfast table.
- Mood: By dinnertime our little ones can already be irritable and hangry after a long day and mealtime becomes a battle pretty quickly. We still need to squeeze in a bath before the whole bedtime routine and don’t have the time or energy to sit down together for dinner. At breakfast time, our kids are their best selves, refreshed from a good night’s sleep and happy to get some food in their bellies.
- Ritual: It’s a beautiful ritual to start the day together – instead of starting the day scrolling through our emails on our phone or putting the TV on as a distraction, we can tune into our kids. Start the day with connection.
Don’t worry if it’s not the whole family eating together every morning. During the week, one of you may need to get to work before the rest of the family is up. Even if it’s just you eating breakfast with the kids most weekday mornings, that’s still great! It’s just extra special when the whole family is together on the weekend – maybe you can even get the kids involved in making pancakes!
And if the idea of eating family meals together is new, start small! Start by aiming for just one meal in the week to eat together.
Rachel Cohen is a clinical psychologist specialising in body image and eating disorders.