By: Jason M. Jowers, Bari SobelsonThe holidays are a busy time filled with obligations galore- including family and food! Why not make the best out of this holiday season by combining the two and reap the many benefits of family mealtimes? You’re probably thinking that this is a lot easier said than done with all of the other items on your “plate” including shopping, office parties, and everything else holiday related. But, it may be easier than you think! Here are some important things to remember about family mealtimes and suggestions from various resources on how to make mealtimes work during the busiest time of the year!
- During the holidays, schedules are chaotic, with kids being out for school holiday breaks and parents being home from work. These factors can make family mealtimes stressful because they are different from the family’s regularly scheduled routine.
- Added stress of relatives coming into town for the holidays or having to travel to relatives houses to spend the holidays with them can leave families with not a whole lot of time to stick to their mealtime routines.
- The stress of having to cook a big family meal can be overwhelming. Focusing on the “why” of fixing the meal over the “how” can put things in perspective.
- Routines really do have an great impact on family mealtimes and can stress parents and kids out when those routines are off balanced. Try to mirror holiday mealtimes as closely to normal routines as possible, but still highlighting the importance of the season.
- Positive mealtimes lead to kids eating more healthier foods!
- Parental emotions are super important during family mealtimes; positive emotions lead to healthier relationships within the family.
- Involving kids in meal preparation (grocery shopping, meal planning, and cooking) can lead to a more positive experience for the whole family and can be teaching opportunities on healthy choices and step by step cooking instructions.
- Involving kids in the process gives them a say in food choices and their own unique preferences; they tend to have healthier diets and stronger preferences for fruits and vegetables.
- These skills translate once kids grow up and they tend to continue these healthy habits into adulthood.
- The importance of mealtimes is being together as a family and enjoying each other’s company.
These insights on family mealtimes and more come from the Family Resiliency Center at the University of Illinois. They have several podcast episodes available, including one entitled ” Holiday Chaos in the Kitchen: Ease Tension, Improve Health, Enjoy the Holiday.”
The Family Resiliency Center also has a series of public service announcements called “Mealtime Minutes.” These videos cover various topics including balancing work and life stress, positive communication at the dinner table, and limiting the effects of excessive screen time and media. Click here to view these helpful videos.
If you joined us for our collaborative webinar on The Power of Family Mealtimes in August 2018, then you know just how powerful dining together can be in relation to health and wellbeing. If you missed this webinar, you can view the archived version here.
Monahan, R., Saltzman, J. & Melcalfe, J. (2017). Holiday Chaos in The Kitchen: Ease Tension, Improve Health, Enjoy the Holiday. Family Resiliency Center Podcast. Retrieved from: https://soundcloud.com/user-346411005/holiday-chaos-in-the-kitchen-ease-tension-improve-health-enjoy-the-holiday
This blog was written by members of the MFLN Family Development Team. The Family Development team aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network Family Development team on our website, Facebook, and Twitter.