Family dinners are so important. Yet in today’s busy families, family members are sitting down to eat dinner together less and less often. Studies have demonstrated a correlation between family dinners and mental and physical health in children, improved social skills, improved grades, and the avoidance of engaging in teen risky behavior, including substance use. Here are some suggestions to make the most out of family dinner time.
Here I am sharing some thoughts from my experiences in my clinical and forensic practice, as well as through my role as a mother of three children, a wife, a daughter, a sister, and a friend.
Would you like to hear more than a one word answer from your child about his or her school day? To help get the conversation going, make your questions interesting, fun, silly!
Here are a few suggestions when your child gets home from school:
My child has heard about and viewed images of the terrorism, and that extra security measures are now being taken in the United States. What kind of impact does this have on my child, how can I answer my child’s questions, and how can I help my child feel safe?
The questions of my clients often provide me with ideas to write about. Here’s one that repeatedly comes up!
These days with video games, computer games, television, scheduled activities and sports, and the Internet, it seems that I am competing with so many different things for family time, which my seven year old child used to enjoy. What can I do to make what little family time we have more special and meaningful?
- Put down the devices! If you are eating a meal together, leave all electronics off the table. If you are watching your child play soccer, resist the urge to look at your phone. While looking at your phone, you may not miss the play of the year, but your child may see your distraction and receive the message that your phone is more important than watching him/her play.
- Say “Thank you”. Even if you had to ask/tell your child 100 times to clean his/her room, do chores, etc., when it is done, say, “Thank you.” Everyone wants to be appreciated, especially for completing undesirable tasks. Don’t worry – saying “thank you” for something that is expected and necessary does not undermine the fact that it is expected.
- Say, “I love you.” Yes, it is important to show love. But it is also important to say it. So say it in the morning, say it sending your child off to school, say it at bedtime.
- Sneak a love note in your child’s lunch or school folder. Or leave it on your child’s pillow. Yep, even for your teenager. Especially your teenager.
- Spend some time alone together, just you and your child, even if it just for five minutes. Remove all distractions, and really pay attention to what your child is saying. Or not saying. Just BE together, in the absence of laundry, siblings, homework, devices. Sit together in quiet stillness, or pick a topic and talk about it. Just BE together and connect.
A few great values to instill in young children include empathy, generosity, gratitude, acceptance, and self-control.