Meal time has often been considered one of the most needful times when connecting with your family. Whether you eat at home at the table, in the living room, in the car, or at a restaurant, meal time is important. You can make it either meaningful or literally a waste of time (except for filling bellies). What are some issues concerning meal times and what can we as parents do?
1. Media. Mostly I mean television – and I’ll start with home. Rarely do my husband and I eat in front of the television. I can probably count on one hand the times we’ve done that in 19 months of marriage. But, growing up we did that more times than we didn’t. It was acceptable and counted on to eat while watching a Mets game, the news, or sitcoms. Television watching at home provides a means to have no conversation and to also not think about what you are eating.
2. Social Media or Telephones. I rarely remember a meal when the phone didn’t ring in our house growing up and someone didn’t get up to answer it. It speaks of what is more important: the person on the phone or those you are eating with. There may be times when emergencies happen and you must do that – but I would say those are rare. Parents: leave your phones in another room or turn them off. Eat with your family: be all there. If your children do have phones or other handheld media devices, have them turn them off or don’t allow them to interact with them during a meal time.
3. Restaurants. Last night my husband and I went to Carino’s for dinner. We sat in the bar area and I sat facing the news channel. They were focusing on a sex crime/murder trial. I didn’t know anything about it but caught myself glancing up every now and then. By the end of the meal I had mentioned it to Eric just as a way of soundbite. It didn’t do anything to fuel our conversation, but sometimes it does. If you are out with small children: go to a place without a tv or sit in a place where they can’t see it. You usually have no control what is going to be shown and therefore can’t be on guard against what your children (or you) might see. I often am saddened by couples or families that sit in almost silence at restaurants. They rarely talk with each other and are instead engrossed in their phones or just staring at their meals.
4. Use meal times strategically. You can teach young children responsibility and what is important. You can make meal times a priority for your family and a chance to have great conversation about their day and your day and what you read in the Word that day or use some books to fuel conversation. Nancy Guthrie has a book on dinner table devotions that would be an excellent choice. Eric and I use a grouping of memory verses to read and pray through before the meal.
Whatever you do, don’t let meal times be stolen away by society. Use them for your family’s strength and God’s glory.