Dinner time can be more enjoyable when everybody knows what's expected of them.
Sitting down together as a family for meals has been scientifically shown to have many benefits. It fosters a greater sense of security and meaning among family members; improves academic performance in children; promotes better health; and reduces stress –among other things.
Gathering to eat is also a very spiritual act. The “banquet table” as a metaphor for heaven is an explicitly biblical idea and one that is central to the Catholic faith. It’s difficult for children to understand the Eucharistic meal if they have no experience of the meaning and beauty of family mealtime at home.
But it’s not just the act of regularly sitting around the table together at the end of the day — and yes, just making that happen can be a feat — it’s also the quality of that time. Family meal time (screaming infants and fussy toddlers not withstanding) is meant to be enjoyable. And the only way that happens is if good manners, charity, and conversation are practiced. This is not just true for children, but for all members of the family.
One thing that helps to foster this is coming up with some simple rules and posting them where everyone can see them. Ask all members of the family for their input as well as their agreement. Think about the behaviors that would best enhance your meal time and build them into the rules. For every family these will look different, but here are 7 that have helped in our house over the years.
1. Come to the table with a positive attitude – leave grumpiness and stress out of the dining room.
2. Be kind and respectful in your words and actions at the table — even if you don’t like what is being served.
3. Be positive and pleasant in your conversation.Participate and don’t dominate.
4. Sit properly at the table. If you’re uncomfortable because you’re too hot or too cold, put on more appropriate clothing.
5. Use utensils properly — no loud banging, clanging, squeaking, etc.
6. One you’re finished eating, ask to be excused if you wish to leave the table.
7. Remember: everyone in the family is responsible for making meal time relaxing and enjoyable for all.
As Christmas holidays draw near, some simple mealtime rules can go a long way in making sure that gathering around the table is one of the most enjoyable parts of time with your family.