Before I wrote my book “The Shared-Meal Revolution: How to Reclaim Balance and Connection in a Fragmented World through Sharing Meals with Family and Friends“, I did a master’s thesis on my own family’s meal practice, and how it changed over generations.
What I learned from doing this thesis, and subsequently when writing my book, was how our parents’ used our family meal ritual as a way to best serve our well-being. There were 11 of us — 6 boys and 5 girls. Having a shared-meal ritual required discipline, creativity and planning (to name just a few of the qualities) needed to serve the thousands of meals we shared while we were being raised. Our family meal ritual didn’t happen by accident. It was a primary activity we used to keep our family connected. My parents had their share of challenges and pressures that come with every era (and every family) but they did not have some of the modern lifestyle pressures many families are faced with today.
Today, families manuever through complicated schedules (both adults and children). Technology distracts us from the more personal interactions that were present before the progression of social media. Some employers expect more than a typical workday productivity which results in excessive work hours to just keep up. Add to this, we have a very high-choice culture, which sometimes can complicate the choices we make around how and with whom we share our time; there are many competing priorities. In many homes, leadership is key to carrying out intentions. Leadership requires a commitment to the intentions we set.
Because we live in a rather complicated world, we need a plan that will help us achieve our intentions. When we are able to see our intentions through, it can make a positive difference.
Here are some of the ways why being intentional about meal times can make a difference to your family:
- It allows us the opportunity to be a member of a community (the first community that every person first experiences is in their homes).
- It can help us feel whole and human, versus fragmented and robotic from being pulled in many different directions. (Keeping the technology, TV, and cell phones on a meal time-out is a must to preserve the best experience without distraction.)
- We are able to witness each others’ lives. It is this “looking out for each other” that helps us weather storms, develop our identity and personality traits, and receive support from people we trust along the way.
- Shared-meal rituals helps us to simplify our lives. If we know that our intention is to take care of our relationships, showing up each day to share a meal says to those we love: “I value you, and want to be a part of your life.” Life feels easier when we take care of the big things first.
- Children need routines to feel stability, and a shared-meal ritual is something that helps fulfill this need. In children who don’t receive this, they may look outside the home for ways to feel accepted and secure.
- Sharing meals routinely with your family can help children develop healthy eating habits that will influence their eating habits as adults. Nutritious food choices can be encouraged by parents’ role modeling.
- Throughout life, sharing is an important aspect of learning to live with others, and participating in a shared-meal ritual helps you learn these important, collaborative skills of “playing well with others”.
- One of biggest gains in being intentional about meal times is that it gives family members a deep feeling of commitment towards each other. Those positive feelings help family members feel a sense of peace and contentment, something we all seek in order to get enjoyment from our lives.
Shared meals matter to every family. If you seeking ways to improve the well-being of your family, consider developing a shared-meal plan to receive these benefits. Visit www.shared-meals.com for more information.