Sunday, April 20, 2014

SCHLAGECK: Family that eats together stays together

By JOHN SCHLAGECK, Kansas Farm Bureau | 4/24/2013

When we think of eating a meal today, a person dashing toward the door while chomping down the last bite and yelling goodbye is an all-too-common picture. But again, that’s only part of the story.

While some folks have sounded its demise, eating together at the family dinner table might not become extinct. Plenty of families still take the time to eat together four or five times a week despite the distractions of work schedules and after-school activities.

When we think of eating a meal today, a person dashing toward the door while chomping down the last bite and yelling goodbye is an all-too-common picture. But again, that’s only part of the story.

While some folks have sounded its demise, eating together at the family dinner table might not become extinct. Plenty of families still take the time to eat together four or five times a week despite the distractions of work schedules and after-school activities.

Preparing dinner and eating together as a family is important. Having dinner together has been a tradition with many families for countless generations. It always has been considered a valuable way to keep families together. It’s another way busy parents can communicate with busy children.

In the helter-skelter world of the 21st century, when family members are moving in different directions, it’s more important than ever to make the most of family mealtime. Doing so calls for planning and implementation.

One of the first things to do is to turn off the TV, put down the smartphones and shut down the computers. Sharing a meal is a great way for family members to exchange news and engage in conversation. Turning off distracting electronic devices will make it easier for the family to talk and listen to one another.

Look forward to dinner. Having meals together can be a happy memory most people carry from childhood. Time spent with the family around the dinner table can help keep the family intact.

Set a specific time. While many cultures eat their large family meal at midday, Americans typically eat the evening meal together. No matter which meal your family eats together, try to schedule it at the same time each day. That way all family members can plan for the meal in advance.

It is important to assign everyone a job. One person should never be responsible for all the meal preparations and cleanup. Assigning each family member a job can make this a true tradition.

Historically the family meal has been a way to honor family members who work both inside and outside the home. Every family member should have a special position at the table. Make sure to honor all family members by assigning each his or her own spot at the table, and sit in the same seats each night.

Give special honor to the cook who prepared the meal by complimenting on the food and presentation.

Another way to make the evening meal rich with tradition is to develop a unique way to call everyone to the table. Consider a dinner bell to call children in from outside. Letting the family know that dinner is ready may also be a specific assignment. Avoid yelling.

Finally, hand this mealtime tradition down to the next generation. Rituals often evolve over the history of a family. Meal traditions you establish now might last long into the future.

John Schlageck is a Farm Bureau commentator, specializing in agriculture and rural Kansas.

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