Meals Together & Quality Time
The clocks have been turned back, the weather is starting to get colder, and our schedules are getting fuller by the day. Like most families, we are all super busy with work, school, teams, clubs, and social and family obligations. Everyone is in constant motion, and we rarely have time to sit down together and share a family meal. The routine of regular family meals has become a rare occasion as kids grow and come to be more committed to their interests and school work. Though well intended, we are happy when we can pull off a family meal even a couple of nights a week. Getting everyone together feels like a real challenge and a real accomplishment when it happens.
Hectic days of feeding the family in shifts, makes me think of camp and how lucky the camp family is to be able to experience meal time together. Campers and staff share meals together three times a day, every day. They do not have to compete with constant activities or iPhones that pull us away or distract us from the dinner table. When campers sit down together, they check in with one another, communicate, work through any stressors, laugh, cheer, and feel a sense of belonging. Research shows that kids who participate in family meals experience greater self-esteem, have better nutrition, are less inclined toward risky behavior, do better in school, and are overall happier and healthier. Studies show that simply taking time each day to turn off screens and genuinely connect with each other over food can improve the overall health of both kids and parents.
In a world of constant distraction, immediate gratification, and lack of face-to-face communication, camp gives kids the benefits of meal time together. Campers learn patience by having to wait for their table to be called for food, or take their turn at the salad bar. Eating family-style teaches them to share, be considerate, and develop good manners. Sitting together helps campers communicate effectively, and share daily events and feelings. Meal time conversation helps camper’s bond, connect and learn from one another. Campers learn to eat a variety of foods and develop better eating habits. They develop a sense of belonging while participating in spirited cheers and songs. They learn responsibilities, like cleaning up and helping out so they can move on to the next activity. And while all these great things are happening, counselors have a chance to check in with campers, listen to what they have to say, read body language, and make sure everyone is doing well and part of the group. Ask any camper some of there fondest memories at camp, and time together in the dining hall is sure to be mentioned.
It may be challenging to try to attain the regular meal time schedule that camp provides, but it’s worth the effort to make it happen at least a couple of times a week. Family meals are the perfect time to reconnect with everyone in one place. Conversations around the family table are an opportunity to talk about what’s important and build memories along the way. Home cooked or take-out, being together and strengthening family bonds is the goal.
The fondest memories are made when gathered around the table.