Meal-time can be a blessing for families who gather ’round the table’.  It can also be a curse for the cook if picky eaters reign, or too hectic of a schedule makes meal planning, preparation, and consumption just one more thing to get done in a hurry.  I have learned to get meat out of the freezer the night before, prep two casseroles at once to freeze the second, and put dinner in the crock-pot nearly every morning!

Kids newly placed with an adoptive family can make meal-time a battleground.  They can be overly picky just to be rebellious, reject delicious food just because it is new to them, or refuse a dish because of bad memories associated with it.  Though they might have nearly starved to death from neglect, they might starve themselves in their new home just because they want to.

How can Dad and Mom, adopted kids, and the rest of the family make meal time a positive event each day?  The right frame of mind regarding meal-time can make it the primary bonding and fellowship time each day for a family.  It is crucial to long-term family success.  Here are some things that we have had learned:

  1. Discuss with your child what things they like to eat; talk to them about your favorites, and the family’s favorites
  2. Discuss nutrition with your child, and talk about how God provides good food for us so we can have strong, healthy bodies
  3. Take the time needed to plan, shop for, and prepare delicious and nutritious meals, eliminating other time-takers in your schedule
  4. Plan meals so that at least one item is something your child is used to, and enjoys eating
  5. Plan meals to have color, taste, and texture contrast to pique appetites
  6. Take time at the grocery store to shop with your child, letting him/her suggest a few things each trip
  7. Serve at least three  items each meal so the child can enjoy eating at least two; sliced fresh fruit is always an appealing choice
  8. Everyone should have at least one bite of each item served
  9. When eating out or at someone else’s home, these rules still apply; but, avoid over-correction at the Holidays!

Meal time should be a positive experience for each person at the table.  This means teaching table manners.  So as not to overwhelm children, try introducing a new one each week, with gentle reminders about that specific one.  Correct once, then overlook until the next meal to avoid it becoming a battleground.  Try these:

  • begin each meal with thanking the Lord, and praying for family member (and others’) needs
  • pass food to the right when first serving up; for seconds, say the person’s name closest to the dish, then ask them to pass it to you
  • chew your food 20 times to get saliva flowing for proper digestion, and swallow it before you talk
  • try to go around your plate when eating, one bite of each the go to the next item
  • take time to enjoy eating, not just gobbling food down
  • take turns talking so everyone has a chance
  • parents ask open-ended questions to start conversations
  • always thank those who prepared the meal, and who worked to provide it; Dad and Mom set the example here.

It is a good idea to end the meal on a positive note.  We conclude either breakfast or dinner (based on that day’s schedule) with a family devotion.  We start with a hymn (I purchased a dozen hymnals at a garage sale for 50 cents a piece), then Dad uses a devotional book to read a scripture passage, and ask questions.  We pray, and then close with a second hymn.  This puts everyone in the right frame of mind to start or end the day.

We have learned to avoid correcting a child at the table.  If someone acts up, they are excused to ‘time out’, and then their behavior is dealt with after the meal, one-on-one.  This allows others who were being appropriate to enjoy the meal-time.

Finally, I have a few ‘no-brainer’ meals for days that just are too hectic.  PB&J sandwiches, taco salad, spaghetti, fish sticks, and frozen pizza have saved my sanity more than once!  My husband doesn’t complain as long as I never fix peanut butter and jelly when he is home to eat!  Once again, it is both Mom and Dad who hold the key to success.

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