Weekdays are a stretch for the Gupta family of four -- mother, father, their teenage daughter and 10-year-old son. Everyone is in a rush in the morning, as the children leave early for school. After seeing them off, there is only enough time for a hurried breakfast and then the jet-setting couple is off to their respective workplaces. Everyone takes a packed lunch with them, so the only time that the family can have a meal together is in the evening.
The problem is getting everyone to eat at the same time, at the dinner table. The patriarch of the family is usually glued to the breaking headlines on the television news channel and prefers eating a late dinner. The children need to eat early as they have to get adequate sleep before waking up for school. Mom is busy with the chores and prefers to eat after her work is done.
So, how do you get the family together for dinner? Research says that eating a meal as a family strengthens bonds and encourages communication. Here are some sure-fire ways to ensure everyone is at the dining table at supper time --
1. Let every member decide
Each day, assign one member of the family to come up with a meal idea. Ask the others to also give their inputs of what to cook. So when each person has a say in what goes on the dinner table every week, all of them will feel responsible and involved.
2. Prepare the meal as a family
We know everyone is short of time during the weekdays to do anything special, but even a simple meal can be special if all the family members are involved in helping to make the dinner. Get your spouse to cut some vegetables, while you enlist your children to mix and stir ingredients. The collective process of preparing the food can be a boost for a family meal. If you have a little extra time in hand, make an effort to make the meal interesting and colourful.
3. Make it a happy occasion
Mealtimes should be free of stress and whatever little time the parents and children spend together eating dinner, it should be infused with positivity and lots of fun. Involve everyone, make jokes, have interesting conservations about your day and generally avoid any kind of negativity. This bonding exercise will also help you connect with your children better and know about their joys and concerns.
4. No distractions or electronic devices
We all know it is bad etiquette to keep checking your phone or tablet while having dinner. Despite this, most of us adults do it out of habit. When you get all the people in the house to the dinner table for a quiet meal, make sure there are no distractions in terms of phone calls, television and so on. Watching TV should be complete no-no while eating dinner and ingrain this in your children, so that the parents and kids get a chance to talk to teach other. Keep phones and tablets away from the dining table.
5. Get everybody to clean up
Let cleaning up be a collective exercise. Both the parents and children can divide the different chores such as tidying up the table, washing the dishes, cleaning the kitchen and so on, among themselves. This will ensure that everything gets done fast and all the members of the family learn to share household responsibilities.